Compose the New Section

Grades 7 - Adult


You are walking home from school.  It’s raining. You have your jacket on, your head down.  You spot an old bottle is sticking out of the ground. You uncover it and find a treasure map inside! 

The paper is so old it’s gray and crinkly. It says a treasure is buried in the grassy area near the beach, at what is now called Rocky Point. You hurry home for a shovel and head to Rocky Point. Your heart pounds with excitement.

You dig up a treasure chest. It has gold trim and a large silver lock.  Something pounds from inside. The sweat and heave as you try to pry the lock loose with the tip of the shovel. 

Finally, with a screech, it breaks open!  You open the lid to find a tiny man made of mirrors. You fall back in fear. As he stands, he reflects you from a dozen angles.  Sunlight, breaking through the clouds, bounces off the mirrors. “About time someone found me,” he says. “I’ve been waiting for two hundred years.” 

Tell what happens next.

Maybe he looked like the man on the right. But he soon ran away.

You soon had to tell the police what he looked like and how you discovered him. 

How would you describe him to someone who had never seen him?

A story is like that. You must describe people and places to readers who have not seen them.  

Task 3.4.1 – Tandem or Small Group

  1. Fill out the RH.
  2. Roll-play meeting the tiny man with mirrors. Have the “action” and dialog be in the same location.  
  3. Keep a running list of the actions, descriptions, and dialog. Put them in the RH like a grocery list.
Main Character
Verb Phrase
had a problem with

Review: Sensory Details

Have you ever read a story and felt like you were “there”?

That’s because the writer added “sensory details.” There are six of them. The first five are things we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. 

A sixth sense is our emotions, including our memory.

Task 3.4.2 – Tandem or Small Group

Go through the following story about meeting the man of mirrors.  Pick out sensory details.

One day I found a tiny man of mirrors. I took a shortcut on my way home from school here in Napoleon, Ohio. It was a cold day and about to rain. Lightning crackled in the distance. I only had on my long-sleeved red T-shirt. I didn’t want to get soaked.

I ran, trying to beat the storm. There were lots of hills. I was huffing before I was halfway home. I sat down on a log to catch my breath. Sweat ran down the sides of my face.

And there, behind it, was an old bottle, crusted with dirt and grime, partway sticking up from the dirt. A voice whispered to me. Pick me up.

I looked around. No one here but me. It must have been my imagination. But I picked up the bottle.

There was a piece of paper inside. I pulled out the cork and pulled out the paper by sticking my finger into the bottle as far as I could. The paper crinkled when I unrolled it. It was as brown and brittle as a dried-up leaf.

Treasure of the Man of Mirrors

— the map said. It showed a place right behind the state park! I knew right where it was! I had been to the state park lots of times. It was only about a mile from my house.

I carefully rolled up the map again and put it back into bottle and put the bottle into my backpack. I didn’t want the map to get ruined. Even if there wasn’t any treasure, maybe the map was valuable.

By the time I got home, the storm clouds had cleared, and the afternoon sun beat against my face. I got a shovel from the garage. I grabbed a jacket and raced to the state park. I stumbled through the bushes behind it and came to where a meadow opened it.

I dug and dug where I thought the map said.


I hit something hard.  I pulled up a treasure chest. I used my jacket to wipe off the dirt and tossed my jacket aside. My heart pounded in my ears from excitement. I used the edge of the shovel to pry open the lock.

Excitement warmed me as I opened the lid. Its rusted hinges squeaked. There was a tiny, shiny doll lying inside. He was made of little mirrors that flashed the sun when, trembling, I picked him up.

I’m glad someone finally found me, a voice said in me.  I’ve been waiting two hundred years.  

Task 3.4.3 – Tandem or Small Group

Add sensory details to your story.

Be Precise

You can increase the power of sensory details by being precise.  

For example, you can say He wore old tennis shoes.

But look how clearer this is: He wore raggedy tennis shoes with the shoelaces trailing. 

Which is the worse smell?

His breath smelled bad.

His breath smelled like something from a walrus.

Which one shows taste more clearly?

I ate a hamburger.

I ate a hamburger that tasted like ground-up worms.

Which shows an emotion more clearly?

He was happy.

He was laughing.

He was laughing so hard his belly shook.

Avoid Clichés

Clichés are words or phrases we have heard many times:

  • She was cute as a bug’s ear
  • The halfback couldn’t get a handle on the ball.
  • You’ve got to grab the bull by the horns.
  • We must think outside the box.

Two Ways to Rid Your Prose of Clichés

Be Precise

The problem with clichés is that they are not exact.

  • Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.


  • Stand at 50 feet from the explosion of a modern grenade, and you can safely drink tea when a grenade goes off. Walk ten average steps closer, and you’re likely to be peppered with shrapnel.

Make Them Humorous

  • The early bird gets the worm.
  • There is no I in team.


The early bird gets the work.

Nor is there an I in effort.

Name Things

Gardens should not have flowers in them. They should have gladiolas, irises, and roses. There are no trees in forests.  There are Douglas fir, aspen, and cottonwoods. Poisonous snakes do not slither among tent sites, but diamond-back rattlesnakes, saw-scaled vipers, and boomslang do. We don’t drive cars. We drive Toyota Hatchbacks, Teslas, and Chevy Minivans, each of which tells a great deal about us.

Task 3.4.3 – Tandem, Small Group, or Class

Fill in the blanks.  You can have more than one answer.

  1. The frogs sounded like ______________________________________.
  2. I ate a (type of candy) _______________________________________.
  3. The band sounded awful. A girl playing a ________________ made my ears feel like _________________________________________.
  4. My computer is a (brand) _________________________. It’s great!
  5. My neighbor is mean. She (action) __________________________________.
  6. Randy cheated when we were playing cards. He (action) ____________________.
  7. Her voice sounded like a _________________ whenever she sang.
  8. A _____________ (type of bird) flew into my bedroom. The flapping of its wings sounded like ___________________
  9. I was so sweaty that I smelled like ______________________________
  10. We have a (type of car) ______________________________.