This week: Using the Five SensesEdited by: Lonewolf
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Writers often hear that in order to write a great story, we must incorporate the 5 senses. Doing so draws a reader further into our stories, allowing him/her to feel the emotion between the characters. While I do like this piece of advice and find it useful to a point, I think there is a better approach. The whole reason to avoid flat out stating everything that happens in a story is to give the reader sensory details that make them feel like they're really there.
Think about how much our senses come into play with everything we do, every single moment of our lives we use our senses. Without our senses we would be lost. Don’t lose your reader by having your character’s avoid their senses. Using the senses can make your scenery more robust, love scenes more sensual, entertainment scenes more entertaining, and meaningful. Remember, that the setting should reflect the tone of the scene you're writing, so choose descriptions of your characters' sensory experiences that reflect the mood you're trying to create in the scene.
The thing to remember is not all five senses should be addressed at once. But also, make it relevant to the character. Do those seagulls sound like screaming people? Does the cigarette lit by a companion cause an intense craving for the hero who only quit a year ago? Does the scratchy hospital sheet feel like desert sand to a war vet? What does that cloud of smoke in the distance make the heroine think of? Does a cinnamon roll threaten the heroine’s diet? Just one at a time and filter it in via the characters. It will allow the reader to relate and give character insight. If done well, using the five sentences should be seamless and allow the reader to create a deep, emotional connection with the characters.
Describes how things look in your story it's simple, straight forward, and can add a significant layer of depth to any scene that will instantly plant your readers in the front row of what's happening. The only thing you should be careful to avoid doing when using this type of sensory detail is to refrain from using common colors in your description, such as "blood red" or "fire engine red" and "midnight black" or "dark as night." While readers will immediately know the color you are referring to, it becomes boring and rather cliché to hear them in every piece of literature.
Things to consider: Place yourself firmly in the scene you're writing and turn in a circle. What is around you? What are people doing, wearing? How is the person the character is interacting with reacting?
Using sound helps to ground the reader in the scene. The click of the heroine’s boots on the ground, the honking of the cars in the city, the roaring of the waves at the beach. All of these things help set the scene and draw the reader in. Sound can help depict your characters' environment, or emotions. Sounds bring happiness, sadness, and fear. Sound brings forth the tone of someone’s voice, laughter.
Things to consider: Think of what sorts of background noise the character would be hearing and add it.
When writing romance, the hero and heroine should have distinct smells that call to each other. Perhaps something reminds him of the smell of her hair, and he realizes just how much he misses her. Or the heroine is trying to move on with her life, but finds that no other man smells as good as her ex. Whatever it is, smell should be incorporated into scenes as much as possible to draw the reader in and evoke their own memories.
Things to consider: Describe how your character's environment smells, how the food their eating smells, the scent of their lover, the scent of danger. This is a powerful addition to making the scene you're writing pop.
The sense of touch can be used to create sensual scenes that draw your reader into the moment with the character. That’s why bathtub scenes are popular in romance, especially for historical pieces. The silky slide of water along skin automatically evokes sensuality and promise. There are many different textures to explore in this world we live in. Using this detail in your story will give your writing texture as well and make the situation much more realistic to the reader.
Things to consider: The sense of touch shows us pain, pleasure, and texture. How does your character feel when another touches them? What do they feel when they touch someone else? Touch can also be used as a personal sensation—an itch, or they feel hot or cold.
The sense of taste like the sense of smell has the ability to bring back memories and the emotions attached to them. It’s not necessary to add taste to every scene, but it should definitely be there in the big emotional scenes. If your character is in a fight, does he taste the metallic tang of blood in his mouth? If the heroine has been kidnapped, perhaps it’s the bitter taste of fear creating a film in his mouth. Love scenes are fun because you can use a variety of flavors to evoke the feeling of danger, excitement or desire.
Things to consider: Remember in your writing that your sense of smell and taste are deeply connected. A strong smell is often tasted, such as perfume. Is it sweet, succulent, bitter? Taste can show us the taste of food, drink, poison or that of a lover.
Excerpt of: Strangers In The Night
The rain was just beginning to fall when the doorman let Ellie into the apartment building. Nodding briefly to the security guard on duty she hurried to the elevator, just as the doors were about to close. Slipping in at the last second Ellie breathed a sigh of relief and a silent thanks to whoever sent the car to the lobby. She pressed the button for third floor and attempted to balance the bulky portfolio while fumbling inside her purse for the keys. The doors of the elevator opened with a quiet whoosh and Ellie stepped out into a long, tastefully decorated and discreetly dimmed corridor. Her apartment was all the way at the end of the hallway, but the benefit of having a corner spot far outweighed the disadvantage of being far from the exit.
Stepping inside the spacious but cozy rooms, Ellie experienced the sensation of peace that always greeted her at home. Leopold, the stray cat she found near the dumpster a few months back, greeted her with his usual cool reserve but allowed himself to be petted. After hanging her coat and verifying that the answering machine was blissfully unaware of any incoming calls, Ellie fed Leopold and attempted to scrounge up a dinner for herself.
Shrill ringing of the phone interrupted Leopold's meal and Ellie's tranquil mood. With a sigh she reached for the receiver.
~ ~ ~
Excerpt of: Maizie
Her thoughts hung unfinished as she noticed a mousy-looking teenage girl browsing through the teen jacket section. Showing little genuine excitement, with languid movements, she pawed through several displays of teen apparel. Abruptly, she stopped at a newly tagged Ralph Lauren leather jacket and caressed the sleeve. Glancing from right to left, she took it off the rack and carried it into the changing room. Moments later the girl emerged wearing her old, but newly bulked out ski jacket.
Maizie always felt sad when young people made poor choices. Lem, the plainclothes security officer, would spot her before she left the floor. By tomorrow the leather jacket would return to the display. The young lady would learn a lesson; at least she would discover that cameras followed customers’ every move and in-house police protected Macy’s interests.
Maizie suddenly brightened. She watched Ted, a middle-aged, balding man in a gray suit, stroll in her direction. With wistful eyes in a soft-featured, round face, his appearance was average by any definition. He worked as an actuary for an insurance company in a nearby building.
~ ~ ~
Excerpt of: Darkening
Standing there, with the moonlight shining down on her, she looked so beautiful. The way the light reflected off her brilliant red hair made it shimmer as if made from precious stones. Even from across the cemetery, he could see the glint of tears in her emerald eyes. Though hundreds of long years had passed, it seemed that sh still felt the raw pain, the aching in her heart. He knew how she still blamed herself, no matter how much she was told otherwise. He hoped that one day she would accept that there was nothing she could have done.
He watched her kneel and set flowers on the grave. This was a sign that she was nearly done; that it would be okay to go to her.
"Charlotte, he would still have died, you know."
"Of course, I know that," she replied, "but he was my father, Ethan. And I left him all alone. It is hard not to feel, at the least, a little responsible."
"Well, my dear, I do believe I have a way to get your mind off things for a little while. We have a meeting with Aubrey and Seth," he said.
"Is it at the club?"
"Where else would they choose?" he laughed, his golden-brown hair falling in his face. He swept it back with his hand, then continued, "I am surprised that she still has not called demanding to know your whereabouts."
A faint buzzing noise accompanied by an electronic rendition of a classical song began playing from Charlotte's purse. "Speak of the devil," she murmured, finding the phone and flipping it open. "Bonjour?"
~ ~ ~
Excerpt of: CUTTING THE TURKEY
My mom had a taste for luster. She had to gather all of us together every Thanksgiving, so she could perpetuate the myth of our happy family image. All three of us, and the spouses, had caught on to the truth about our parents' relationship with each other. Well, this is not exactly correct, because the spouses belonged to my brother and older sister. I was the only very happily unmarried black sheep. With the role models I had all my life, I chose to put marriage as far away from my mind as the most distant galaxy in outer space.
"But Mom," I argued over the phone. " I am in a new relationship. I don't want to leave Mark over here for the holidays."
"He isn't serious. You'll get your heart broken again. Why do you hang on to people who are not serious?"
"I am the one who isn't serious. I live on a daily basis."
I didn't want to tell her that I didn't want to turn out to be like her, a shrill woman who nagged her husband incessantly about his past misdeeds. Neither did I want to see a gross-looking aged man, grumbling at everything, for the rest of my life.
"It doesn't matter, " Mom said. "Ask him over, too."
Yet, I couldn't, because at our next date Mark broke off with me, and within a week got engaged to his father's partner's niece. My pride was hurt but only for a short while. What the heck! As long as I was young and fair to look at, there were plenty of iron-pumping guys in the city.
~ ~ ~
Excerpt of: Chapter 2:Someone Special
Diane woke Monday with butterflies flittering around in her stomach. Today she would meet with Shannon and review her options for her first blind date. Just the thought of going out into the singles scene unnerved her. She wanted to pull the covers back over her head and burrow into their warm softness. Instead, she pushed back the covers and hopped across the cold tile floor towards the bathroom. Starting the shower before doing anything else was a priority. The hot water heater was ancient and the water took forever to heat.
Peering out of the mirror was a disheveled woman. Diane looked closely at the circles under her eyes and the wrinkles framing the edges of her mouth like two tiny unwanted bookends. There must be makeup somewhere under the cabinet capable of covering those. Massaging her scalp, she headed back to the bedroom. Her hair fell in waves across her back. It actually looked better in the morning than any other time of the day. It was full of body; framing her face and making it look thinner in relation to the sheer volume of hair. She sighed. Of course her hair would look better when nobody was around. As soon as she showered it fell in limp strands around her face highlighting her full cheeks and rounded jaw.
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