Wednesday, 24 June 2015

What's the sense in that?

Writers are often reminded to make use of all their five senses when writing, and include the results in the manuscript. Not always as easy as it sounds.
Sight - that's pretty much a given - if you're describing it then you are seeing it. Hopefully your reader is too.
Hearing - mostly obvious, but maybe slightly more testing? If your book has conversation, then that sense is covered, but what about other noises? Everything from music to the roar of a motorcycle? I think this one might be especially useful to those who write horror and generally creepy stuff. Hearing something without being able to see it is pretty creepy. Where would that haunted house be without the clanks, creaks and the odd mournful wail? Footsteps in the dark, rustling in the bushes - the imagination works overtime - which is what it is all about, after all.
Touch - the favourite one for er ... intimate moments. But it's got it's place in description too, the feel of the pile of a velvet dress, the softness of cashmere, the roughness of a brick wall. I'm wondering about that awful squelch when you step in something and you don't know what it is. If it's on the other side of your shoe, does that count?
Jasmine. My garden smells heavenly at the moment. 
And that leads nicely into Smell. I know a lot of historical novelists really go to town on the way history must have reeked and I have to admit I get a bit bored with it. I can get plenty of nasty niff's in the real world, thanks. At the pleasant end of the spectrum, there is perfume and of course it's another for the intimate scenes. But there are other issues too. Scent is apparently one of the biggest reinforcers of memory. I know I once freaked out in a big way while washing my hands in a  ladies loo in a department store in Paris. The soap in the dispenser was exactly the same as that in the hospital where I'd had a major operation, and it took me right away from a lovely day (Paris, retail therapy) to a very dark and scary time. And I didn't even know it was in the memory bank until it happened. I've got to use that one in a book sometime. Don't anyone steal it, or I will come and haunt you.
And the last one - Taste. Is this the trickiest one? Food is the obvious source and of course that intimate stuff again. In fact. S.E.X. seems to a be a good work out all round for the senses. There is occasionally the chance to use this sense in a more unusual setting - the taste of the salt in the wind and such, but it needs a bit of care if it isn't going to sound daft. Babies are experts in putting stuff into their mouths to find out what it might be, but once you've reached the age of discretion, not so much.  

What got me going on all this? Well, I've been doing quite a bit of early morning walking lately and been thinking about the things going on around me - an experiment in creating a town scape. I'll tell you about that next week.


  1. You always come up with something interesting Evonne - will have to get sniffing now!
    Angela Britnell

    1. Hi Angela - the scents on your side of the pond are probably interestingly different from this side. Make a nice compare and contrast :)

  2. Agreed...a lot of writers focus mainly on sight...and over's a lazy way of writing ... food for thought..and other sensual experiences here

    1. Hi H cat Glad you found it thought provoking - It is easy to forget to use all the senses, but it is a fine line.