Sensory Writing

| Friday, March 9, 2012
Today's Tune: To Be Alone With You

I try to be a sensory writer. I don't always succeed, but I try. It's important to me not to forget the senses beyond sight and sound. Smell, taste, and touch are so often overlooked. There are many other senses to think about, as well, but these are the biggies.

We don't learn things about the world through one or two of our sensory organs. We're constantly taking in data from an infinite number of sources. We can tell it's going to rain when the air feels humid and smells like a storm. We can tell a room needs to be cleaned by the discomforting scent of mold. When sand or smoke gets in our mouth, we know the taste of it.

When we limit our character's observations of the world around them, we're shrinking the window through which a reader can see into the story we've created. The smallest details can add a new layer of understanding to characters or scenes. Is your protagonist's mother's meatloaf savory and delicious, or dry and bland? The former shows she cares about the food she puts in front of her family, the latter can indicate that she's overworked or careless. When a character walks into her crush's bedroom, does it smell clean or dirty? Do clothes feel soft, silky, scratchy, coarse? All of these things can show readers little things about your world so you don't have to tell them.

You should be careful not to overdo it, but you can get very clever with what you reveal through sensory writing. Maybe your villain wears a telltale perfume or cologne that shows up periodically throughout the story. Use food as a metaphor for family life -- cold, lifeless food for the family that doesn't cook and can't stand each other; warm, comforting meals for the messy but love-filled life of a happy family. Indicate social status through textiles worn. There are so many options.

Are you a sensory writer? What's your favorite sense to write? I love writing taste.


{ Whirlochre } at: March 9, 2012 at 6:13 AM said...

I'll plump for voyeur with a hint of nasal.

{ Steph Sessa } at: March 9, 2012 at 6:33 AM said...

I always forget smell. I think it stems from the fact that I don't have a very good sense of smell so it gets overlooked often...

{ Old Kitty } at: March 9, 2012 at 7:31 AM said...

Smell! I love smells! I guess it's the first thing I react to in my everyday life, like entering a train carriage and noticing smells asap before I see an empty seat!

Take care

{ Mindy McGinnis } at: March 9, 2012 at 10:21 AM said...

I love writing with whatever sense it is that you feel in your gut, the one that spits back up the word you were looking for :)

{ Shelley Sly } at: March 11, 2012 at 11:59 AM said...

Since hearing is my favorite sense (well, second to vision, only because vision is so important), I like describing sounds. Sometimes I use onomatopoeia, other times I try to show what sounds are pleasant or normal to the MC, and which aren't.

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