The Ultimate “How To” Writing Book by Christopher Fielden.
Amazon: 5 starts.
Order a FREE taster PDF
BUY the Book

Follow me on Twitter.
Find me on Facebook.
My Facebook Business Page.
Connect with me on LinkedIn.
Subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Subscribe to my mailing list

* indicates required

Allen's Sensory Overload Writing Challenge

Quick links on this page:

rules & how to submit - about the sensory challenge - read sensorially overloaded stories

Allen Ashley and Chris Fielden

Allen Ashley & Chris Fielden, imprisoned in some sort of twin-bodied Photoshop nightmare

This photo has not been altered in any way, especially by Chris, who isn't very good at using Photoshop

Welcome to Allen's Sensory Overload Challenge. Like Allen, it's simple (sorry, couldn't resist...). Like Chris, it's beautiful (and again...). Anyone can submit. All entries are published. Discover how delightful writing purple prose overloaded with sensory description can be.

Rules & How To Submit

The rules feel, look, smell, sound and taste simple:

  • 175 words max
  • please include a title for your story (not included in word count)
  • use as much sensory description as you can
  • entry is everyone's favourite price - FREE
  • anyone can submit
  • 1 entry per person
  • no profanity please - all the writing challenges are shared with children
  • your sensorially saturated stories will be published on this page
  • every time we receive 100 200 stories, we'll publish all of them in a book
  • any money made through anthology sales will be donated to charity
  • by submitting, you accept the terms and conditions
  • when anthologies are published, you will be involved in the book launch process
  • submit your story by filling in the comments form below or by emailing Chris
  • include a short biography (40 words max) for use in the published book - if you don't supply a bio, we will be unable to publish your story
  • include 1 link (optional) to your website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.

Allen and Chris respectfully suggest: No more stories about eructation, breaking wind, being caught smoking or waking up in a coffin. These have now been adequately covered. Thanks.

So far, we've received 313 stories. We need 187 more to publish the next anthology.

back to top

About the Sensory Writing Challenge

We want stories of up to 175 words, packed full of sensory impressions and descriptions. Specifically: we want to drown in your senses. You may choose to overload on one branch of sensations, but ideally we would expect your flash fiction to include reference to all 5 of the commonly accepted senses:

Sight/Seeing, Sound/Hearing, Touch/Feeling, Smell and Taste.

Or at least have had a go! Assail us with your aromatic, smooth, salty, bell-ringing purple prose. You know you can and you know you want to.

Many 'How To' books will tell you to be precise and careful when using sensory words. We want you to be profuse and bountiful. The more the merrier. Chuck us into the setting and the situation. Overload us with sensory input and information. And tell a bit of a story as well. It's not too much to ask, is it?

Allen and I would like to thank everyone who submits their stories for their support – it's much appreciated :-)

During the course of running the sensory challenge, Allen and I got into a discussion with author Steven Hardy (author of story 051) regarding apostrophe placement in the word 'people's'. Due to our diligence, Steven very kindly made us a certificate for being top editors and word geeks:

Word Geek Certificate

Allen and Chris's Top Editor & Word Geek Award Certificate

We're sharing this here in the hope that it inspires more authors to award us with stuff. As yet, we've had no takers. This situation needs resolving, ASAP please.

back to top

About the Charity the Sensory Writing Challenge Supports

Proceeds from sales of the sensory writing challenge anthologies will be donated to the National Literacy Trust.

National Literacy Trust

This charity is committed to helping raise literacy levels in the UK. The writing challenges run on this website do the same thing, in a roundabout kind of way, so this seemed like an appropriate charity for us to support.

How The Sensory Writing Challenge Came To Exist

Having seen the photo at the top of the page, this will be immensely hard to believe... Allen and I have not yet shared photographic space together. I know, I know... please try and contain your shock.

We did meet, at a Bristol Festival of Literature event last year, but I forgot to get photographic proof because we were too busy chatting about writing, comparing notes on running short story competitions (Allen judged the British Fantasy Society competition and I run To Hull & Back) and stuff like that.

NOTE: we have now met many times, and run events together, but I've left this bit in as it makes a good story...

While we were chatting, we decided that running a writing challenge together seemed like a good idea.

Allen has been a great supporter of the writing challenges run on this site. Not only has he submitted his own stories, he's shared the challenges with the various writing groups he runs/belongs to and has generated lots of submissions from many authors. So, it's great to be able to work with him on this challenge.

Each time a story is received it'll be published below. Every time we receive 100** stories, they will be published as a collection. The books will be made available in print and Kindle eBook formats.

Proceeds from sales will go to the National Literacy Trust.

** When Sensorially Challenged Volume 3 was full, we decided to change this to 200, so Sensorially Challenged Volume 4 will contain 200 stories written by 200 authors.

If we don't receive enough submissions for the next book, it's a bit of fun, you can read all the stories here on the site and you now know the National Literacy Trust exists and that they do fabulous work.

As with all the writing challenges on this site, it's impossible to lose. Everyone wins.

back to top

Sensory Stories

Below are all the sensorially saturated stories that have been submitted to date, drenched in purple prose. See the words. Hear the joy. Taste the magic. Smell the stories. Touch your toes.

The stories are published in the order they were received.

Sensorially Challenged Volume 1

We received the 100th sensory story on 10th August 2017. The first 100 stories were removed from the website on 1st October 2017. Sensorially Challenged Volume 1 was released on 2nd December 2017.

You can learn how to buy the book and support charity here.

Sensorially Challenged Volume 1

The book contains flash fiction stories written by 100 authors.

Profits from sales will be donated to the National Literacy Trust. You can see how much money has been raised for charity by all the challenges run on this website on the main Writing Challenges page.

back to top

Sensorially Challenged Volume 2

We received our 200th sensory story on 31st January 2019. Stories 101 to 200 were removed from the website on 26th February 2019. Sensorially Challenged Volume 2 was published on Saturday 22nd June 2019.

You can learn how to buy the book and support charity here.

Sensorially Challenged Volume 2

The book contains flash fiction stories written by 100 authors. As always, profits are donated to the National Literacy Trust.

back to top

Sensorially Challenged Volume 3

We received our 300th sensory story on 7th February 2021. Stories 201 to 300 were removed from the website on 7th March 2021. Sensorially Challenged Volume 3 was published on 8th May 2021.

You can learn how to buy the book and support charity here.

Sensorially Challenged Volume 3

The book contains flash fiction stories written by 100 authors. As always, profits are donated to the National Literacy Trust.

back to top

Sensorially Challenged Volume 4

You can read the submissions received for Sensorially Challenged Volume 4 below.

Story 301

Is A Jaffa Cake A Biscuit?

by Allen Ashley

Biscuits age to softness,

cakes tend to get harder:

I should experiment like Louis Pasteur

with this choc and orange gel epicure,

but they don't stay long in my larder.

 

Is a Jaffa cake a biscuit?

Was God an astronaut?

Is a grape a ripe sultana?

What's the square root of nought?

 

Do I have a healthy diet?

Is my money well invested?

If I want to make a cheesecake

should I buy pre-crushed digestives?

 

Is the sky blue out of sadness

or grey for nondescript?

If I go up to the counter

what selection will I pick?

 

If I tell the doctor what I eat

do I risk another lecture?

Is a Jaffa cake a biscuit?

Well, it has a biscuit's texture.

Story 302

Down There, Down Where?

by Christopher Fielden

The bath is lukewarm, my fingers wrinkled. Candles splutter and die, replacing rose fragrance – the smell of her – with smoke. All the bubbles have burst, leaving soapy residue on the water’s surface. I’ve lingered too long. It’s time to get out, but I’m not ready.

I pull the plug and watch a small whirlpool appear. It dances lazily back and forth, sucking the soapy water downward. Down… down there… down where?

A sudden chill in the water causes me to shiver. Liquid churns, presses, holds.

I try to stand. My tears trap me. The whirlpool grows. I feel its pull, sinking. My toes become a swirl of colour, melding with the water, twirling round, descending. My legs follow. I clutch the sides of the bath. Smooth and slippery, porcelain offers no purchase.

I can’t breathe. Eyes sting. Lost.

My torso melts into the liquid, washing away, until only my head remains.

The water gurgles, sucking the last of me down, into the pipes. Lost in the darkness, I taste the tears that cleansed me.

Story 303

Lunch At The Globe

by Anne Maguire

Climbing the stairs took us out of the noise and eye stinging pollution of south London into the classical beauty of another world. We sat by the window and watched boats floating past on the Thames and tourists bumbling slowly past the windows. Others were shouting and running around.

The smell of fresh bread and melting cheese assailed us as we passed around the laminated menu. There wasn't a lot of choice but we had no problem choosing. We had been here before. The lights were bird feathers woven into a mesh around a bulb and we discussed where one would buy such light fittings, knowing they wouldn't suit our homes.

The food arrived with our bottle of chilled rose and discussion ceased. I put a piece of beef in my mouth and barely chewed, as it melted and set off a reaction causing a small ooo to escape my lips. She laughed and said that her lamb was just as nice. We devoured everything and then managed an unctuous chocolate pudding. A blissful day.

Story 304

The Bone Pain

by Len Saculla

When we were naughty as kids, Mama would bash our heads together. "To knock some sense into you," she'd say.

Often the bone pain would last for hours, so that would be one sense.

Sometimes I'd be seeing stars. Normally, if you're seeing stars then it's night time with a dark sky and no annoying streetlamps giving out electric light pollution. If you're seeing stars in the daytime then you're probably on a spaceship. Or looking directly at our warm, yellow sun. Which is not a bright idea. You're likely to go blind.

When I was a kid, Mama told me all sorts of things would make me go blind. This is the only one I still believe in.

Story 305

The Cat, The Neighbor And Me (The Eggroll Life Style)

by Sandra Orellana

"Push," said the hulky neighbour.

"Pull," I said breathlessly.

The cat meowed, watching what we were doing.

A lovey-dovey couple were inside a white pick-up truck on the countryside dirt road, keeping an eye so no one could get near what we were doing. "Eggroll," was the word they would shout if someone was coming.

What was I pushing and what was my neighbour pulling? A stubborn mule, sitting on the ground, refusing to move an inch. My hulky neighbour pulled with force. From behind the mule, I attempted to raise it off the ground. The mule weighed about two hundred pounds.

Time passed as stubbornly as the mule. Then, a steamy burro (donkey in spanish) trotted toward us.

Hee-Haw said, "Eggroll."

Suddenly, we no longer had to deal with stubborness. We jumped into the pick-up. The mule and the donkey followed, also jumping into the truck. We all ended up lovey-dovey together, making a heavenly banquet, eating crispy, deep fried eggrolls. The cat, the neighbour, me , the lovey-dovey couple, the mule and the burro.

Story 306

Making Sense

by Michael Rumsey

I'd been out of touch with Maggie for over a year. Had not seen or heard from her, not a whiff. Couldn't quite put my finger on it, but I had an eerie feeling something was wrong. She'd never missed opening night in my theatre. She had a nose for that sort of thing.

Perhaps I should phone, see if she'd heard about it, sort of echo my concern, reach out, get a handle on things, sound her out. On the other hand, out of sight, out of mind.

Maybe I was not the flavour of the month for Maggie anymore. Perhaps she'd gone off the theatre. After all, tastes do change. Better to wait a bit. I might hear a snippet on the grapevine, or spot her out somewhere and pick up the scent.

Yes, that's it. A pinch of caution to savour is called for, best not to go sniffing around. That makes sense.

Story 307

Heightened Senses

by Christina Collins

I wake to the head-splitting sound of buzzing. I tentatively reach up, but it's not my eyelids I feel.

I hear the footsteps and a voice echoes around the room. It's close enough for me to detect the pungent linger of garlic.

A ringing, different to the buzz joins in, creating a cacophony of sounds.

I'm aware of a smell invading my nostrils and I sniff harder. Boiled cabbage.

A noise resembling a train, thundering along on its tracks, gets closer.

The noise lessens, but the smell intensifies.

The crash of plates and I sense something ricochet off. I jolt, and wince, as hot liquid seeps on to my lap. My hand instinctively reaches down and I touch the dampness. Drawing my hand to my mouth, I taste gravy.

A high pitched voice drones around me. A waft of delicate perfume clogs my throat.

"OK, Rae, time to take these patches off."

My eyes flicker and I see the clear image of the face in front of me. And the noise subsides.

Story 308

Impact

by Grace Collins

On impact I felt everything. From the way my head slammed backwards, jarring my neck, and my chest constricting under the pressure.

In that exact moment I could feel the glass shattering, splintering into thousands of tiny pieces, each one piercing my skin. The screech of metal grated in my ears as the two bodies collided. My nose filled with the stench of petrol and the metallic taste of blood lingered in my mouth. In that exact moment, when everything went black, I thought of you.

My mind automatically conjured up the image of your face. I reached out to trace the lines around your mouth, your eyes following the curve of my hand. You smiled at me and your lips spoke my name, but I couldn't hear you. My eyes began to water and my vision blurred as the white noise grew louder, my head aching from the sound.

My head rolled to one side, the pavement horizontal with my vision. In the distance, I could see flashing blue lights.

Story 309

Gimme Shelter

by Missy Lynne

Dark, brisk night. Black, rough asphalt.

Storm hiding beyond the sky,

Behind where you can't see, but you feel it all the same.

Coming upon you like an unwanted shadow.

Cigarette burning in-between fingers.

The warmth, a welcome relief from the cold.

Smoke rising, puffs drifting by with that old familiar smell.

Beer in the other hand, hits your lips like a blessed calm.

The call of the crowd, the whistles, the screams beckon.

Time to move on.

Cigarette drops, sparks burst.

Beer gets chugged, can crushes.

On we go.

Walking towards the concrete colosseum,

Quickly.

In the gates.

People everywhere.

In front, behind, beside, pushing, stumbling along the way.

All heading to the centre.

But we headed up.

Up and up.

And the centre became far away.

And the people became smaller.

And the masses gathered like a colony of ants.

And we watched and listened.

And we heard.

'Gimme Shelter'.

Story 310

Beautiful Butterfly's Descent

by Andrew Spence

Butterfly escaped; fluttered aimlessly until captured by a vicious, jetting kitchen-sink stream, fast flowing to the dirty depths of stinking sewers.

No, Devil thought, I have a use for you.

Darkness covered her frail form. Ahead, Devil grinned. "Sweet thing, so pretty, I saved you from being torn apart. Come here," it whispered, eyes glowing a dull red.

Frightened, but whole, she staggered towards the dark one.

"Here, a tiny addition to such a fragile wing," it hissed, as she quivered in the cold darkness.

"What is this, that stings so sharply?" she asked.

"You will know, when that brutal bully boy next scares you," the demon said, slowly, sensuously, stroking her newly hooked wing.

Then, it was bright; her cage shone as bully boy shook it, staring in. He laughed, his horrid hand chasing her, teasing her, trying to tear her wings, terrifying the tiny thing. She fluttered, flew faster, a better flyer than his ugly hand. A swoop, a sting, then Devil's deathly poison violated his vein.

Story 311

Progress

by Sue Buckingham

It was a bygone time.  A quieter time. Just the man and the cow. 

No machinery; touch is everything.  Hands on the teats, warm, gentle, firm. Drawing the foamy milk to splash straight into the pail, warm from the morning sun. His cheek on her flank, checking heart rate, soothing, comforting.

"It’s all good, Nellie old girl." The 'girls' are all old. She gently lows.

His life defined by females. A wife and four daughters. Loud, excitable, busy, chattering girls, all of them. But here in the field, it is all about hush, calm, slow, reflection.

His hands move in perfect rhythm, unaware that mechanical hands are just around the corner.

No three-legged stool, no field, no pail. Just metal and glass and shouting.

"Hey up, in you go."

Prodding, pushing, pulling, squeezing. The sound of stressed mooing. Cloven hooves slapping through slurry.  The slurping and swallowing of the milk being whisked away through endless tubes. Disappearing into an abyss.

A process.

Cows with numbers punched in their ears, not names etched upon his heart.

Story 312

The Wall

by Kelly Van Nelson

Dark in here. So dark. Can’t blink. Too afraid. Knees knock. Hands shake. Can’t even touch the wall. What’s the point? I know it’s curved. Nobody touches it. No idiot in their right mind turns their nose up about it. They’d smell nothing but the truth too. Everyone knows about the curved wall. Shake my head at the thought of someone touching the wall. Too vigorous. Dislodge something at the back of my nostrils. Taste acrid blood inside my mouth. I want to spit it out. Vile, acrid liquid. I cough, mouth closed, keep the puddle inside. Don’t want to cause someone outside to recoil at the sight of it. Safer in here. Inside the curved wall. Staring at the pitch black. So quiet. Not even the sound of eyelashes blinking. No eyelashes in here. Can’t blink. Can’t scream. Can’t hear. Can’t smell. Can’t touch. Can’t touch the wall. The curved wall. Nobody touches it. The wall is here to protect me. To protect me from myself. To keep me here. Inside my mind.

Story 313

Unhinged

by Josephine Andersen

The screaming  slashed into her dreams. Pulling on her gown, Sally unlocked her door and saw Harvey. The whites of his eyes gleamed in the dark. His face twisted in rage.

Maggie, his sister, was standing next to him. Sally could smell the Miss Perfume fragrance from Angola on her hair.

"He's going to kill him," screamed Maggie.

"I'll get him."

She heard scrambling at the neighbour's door. Does fear have a smell? Harvey was a big giant of a man.

Sally gripped Harvey's arm.

"If you lay a finger on that man, you will be in deep trouble." She kept hold of him, her white hand firm on his muscular, black arm.

"What went wrong?"

"We were eating late, pop your lips good, chicken muamba. He barged into our flat with a can of Q20 squirting it on all the door and cupboard hinges, saying he could hear them squeaking."

"Keep your door locked in future. We all know he is unhinged."

back to top

Share

Leave your comments

Please use the form below to leave your comments. All comments will be reviewed so won't appear on the page instantly. I will not share your details with anyone else. Most recent comments appear at the bottom of the page, oldest at the top.

Your Details:

Please prove you're a human by entering the security code in the box below: 5182

Comments:

Your comments:

Glynis D
It's my first writing experience on here. I'm completely green about how to do it on a computer, as I usually write by hand. How do I do it as I would live to have ago at this? Thanks.

Chris Fielden
Hi Glynis.  Just type your story into the comments box, like you did your comment :-)

Glynis D
OK, will do. Many thanks.

Ann E
Sounds like fun! One of my writing student just sent me this link. I'll see if I can get them to enter. I'll give it a go too.

Chris Fielden
Fabulous, thanks Ann :-)

Alan B
Hello Chris. Good to see the beginning of another fine challenge. Might have an idea of my own soon.

Chris Fielden
Great, thanks Alan. There's a bit of a queue with challenges now (around 12 months) but I'm always open to ideas :-)

Sivan P
Congratulations for introducing the Sensory Writing Challenge. Enjoyed all the interesting stories published so far.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Sivan :-)

Margaret E
Good morning, Chris. It was good to read about your musical success in the USA.

I'm really enjoying reading the other entries up to date. It's wonderful to have an opportunity for deep purple prose.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Margaret - and thanks for submitting :-)

Jerry W
Extremely happy for the well-deserved growth and popularity of your website. Rock on. It matters. Wilson.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Jerry :-) Fielden.

Michael R
I put my finger on it and suggest this is not a challenge to be sniffed at. I spotted it on your site before I heard about it. It is very much to my and. it seems, many others sensitive taste.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Michael - a comment that's a sensory story all of its own... :-)

Namita M
Hi Allen and Christopher. Thank you very much  for allowing me to send my writing to this project. It's not only a great opportunity to publish my story, it's a great inspiration and fulfilling to work for the charity.

I hope this enthusiasm will be continued and the people in need will benefit from this project.

With my best wishes and many thanks again. Namita.

Chris Fielden
Thanks for your kind works, Namita.

It’s a pleasure to publish your stories and support some amazing charities.

Thank you for taking part in the challenges - it's very much appreciated :-)

Sandy P
Hi Allen and Christopher. Love the challenges. It does inspire a lot of writers to, 'have a go'. Me for one.

Chris Fielden
Great, thanks Sandy. We'll look forward to reading your submission :-)

Elizabeth M
Hope I've managed to submit properly.

This is a great site. Thank you for running it.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Elizabeth :-)

You have indeed - thanks for submitting, your story has now been published above.

Carolyn C
Grace Howard and Charley Swire are already wonderful writers.

Sheila R
Chris, this was so much fun! Your contests and challenges are the best and I look forward to receiving all your emails and newsletters. To Hull And Back is my absolute favorite and I can't wait to see your finalists.  Don't ever stop!

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Sheila!

You'll be pleased to hear that stopping is not in my nature :-)

Jasmine S
Hi There, for challenge entries, do we have to use our full proper name, or can we use our penname? My penname still uses names on my birth certificate, just not my full name.

Thanks, Jaz

Chris Fielden
Hi Jaz. Using a penname is fine. I'll look forward to receiving your story :-)

Jennifer C
I love this idea. In my life overseas I have had many sensory challenges which I can write about. Nairobi was the first in the first challenge - might do a second one, or there's Mauritius in the 1960's followed by Zambia, followed by Hong Kong in the 80's - now, there's a place! Using only 175 words is a challenge in itself!

I must collect my thoughts, make a decision, and WRITE!

Many false starts to come, but such fun to do. Thank you for this opportunity.

Chris Fielden
Well, it sounds like you have a lot of experience to draw on, Jennifer. We'll look forward to receiving your story :-)

Jay B
A story for your sensorially royal collection. May it help raise more funds for the National Literary Trust.

Chris Fielden
Great stuff, thanks Jay :-)

John R
Hi Chris, thank you so much for including my story – it has given me quite a boost of confidence, as I had no idea whether it was worth including!

Thank you.

Chris Fielden
No problem at all, John, thank you for submitting.

It’s great to hear your feedback. One of the reasons the challenges exist are to boost confidence so writers feel inspired to go on and do better things. Great to hear it’s working!

David M
Hi Chris, I really enjoy these challenges, they're good exercises in editing your own material without (hopefully) losing the pace of the story. My last story's first draft contained 220 words and the second 190 before I hit target. Ah, brevity. I must convert the wife.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, David - really glad to hear that. And thanks for sharing your editing process. I find flash useful for the same reasons as you, and apply the same techniques to my longer works now. If I write a short story of 4,000 words, I often find I can cut out 500 of them and tell the same story at a better pace.

Good luck with your wife conversion. I hope you have a suit of armour handy for when you broach the subject :-)

Eileen B
Thank you, Chris. 2 days ago I would never have thought l could try. But after your free course, I plucked up the courage. A big thank you. You ask for approval to print it - a big yes please.

Chris Fielden
Great stuff, thanks Eileen :-)

David M
I read all of Volume 2 in one sitting, and have just put a glowing review on Amazon. Special mention to Mike Evis for 'That Perfect Day', I think it's jaw droppingly good. What an ending!    Well done everyone.

Chris Fielden
Thanks very much, Dave :-)

Alice H
I only found out about this site a while ago and I've already submitted 4 stories! It's free and the money goes to charity, I'm so glad this exists :)

Chris Fielden
Thank you, Alice :-)

Roger N
Thank you. Chris.

Having read your most recent newsletter about seven story mistakes... Failure to engage the reader. Guilty: A weak opening. Guilty: Not sure I dare read any further yet, but I am beginning to see a clearer picture.

I'm setting out my stall for an entry in The Moth Short Story Prize which closes in June and I shall be following your advice by using part of a story line from a novel I have written. Such guidance notes as you have sent me, I find very useful.

Chris Fielden
No problem, Roger. Glad to hear you have found the guidance helpful :-)

I wish you the best of luck with your submissions.

Jacqui M
Thank you for including my short story, especially to be amongst so many talented writers. Your exercise was an inspiration.

Chris Fielden
No problem, Jacqui. Thank you for submitting :-)

Deborah RG
Hi there! I've never entered something like this before, but I decided to build on my writing portfolio by giving it a go. I hope I've submitted it correctly. Thank you for doing this!

Chris Fielden
No problem, Deborah. Thank you for submitting :-)

Josephine A
Thank you for putting my story on your web site.

Chris Fielden
No problem, Josephine. Thank you for submitting :-)