How to Use Your Senses
Sense of Sight
Stories are created from words on paper. To enable the readers to see you must paint pictures for them and so for that reason, the sight is the most important sense you will engage in your writing.
In part 1, we talked about the importance of involving all of the reader’s senses but it stands to reason that your descriptions will remain first and foremost visual descriptions.
To make your visual descriptions powerful, enlist the less is more mantra. Choose strong details and eliminate any superfluous details or provide long lists, choose significant important, memorable details.
Sense of Sound
You would be hard pressed to find a corner of the world where there is complete silence.
Our ancestor’s sound manifested in a variety of ways. They laughed, coughed, cried, and screamed in pain. They worked with the tools of their life, hammers, guns, and pots and pans all opportunities to create a soundtrack for your story.
If you were describing a church mass, you would mention the coughs, whispers, shifting of bodies in the seats and crying babies.
If you are describing an ancestor walking through their farm field, you could mention the mud gurgling out from beneath his boots, or the hawks circling overhead and wind crackling through the trees.
Metaphors are often used to describe sound in stories, by comparing the sound to something else you can bring the sound to life:
The wind hissing through the trees stood like the whispers of ghosts.
Sense of Smell
What is your favourite childhood dinner? I’m certain just the mention of it will conjure up nostalgic feelings. For me, chocolate chip cookies warm out of the oven when we stepped in the door from school takes me back to my childhood memories.
The sense of smell is one of the most powerful ways of drawing on a reader’s emotions and can be useful in getting your ancestor to remember an event from the past in the form of a flashback.
Sense of Taste
Sense of taste will probably we the most rarely used of the senses as it will only be engaged when your ancestor is using their mouth, that stands to reason when they are eating, drinking, licking, and kissing.
But that doesn’t mean there are not opportunities you can incorporate it into your novel.
The gritty dust on your ancestor’s throat from the desert breeze, cold snowflakes landing your ancestor’s tongue and the salt from a seaside spray all help to bring a setting to life through the sense of taste.
Sense of Touch
Our last sense is that of touch. The sense of touch can help us to feel an ancestor’s pain as well as pleasure.
The pain as our ancestor falls off his horse and hits the hard ground. The pleasure of taking the soft hand of the girl he wants to marry.
Touch can help to describe a person, place, or thing…
A hot pot on the fire
Your ancestor’s calloused hands
The slippery warmth of a new-born baby sliding into her midwife’s hands.
Now give this exercise a try to help you bring more than just the sense of sight to describing your ancestors, setting or objects.
Choose an ancestor, setting or object from your story. List 3 ways to describe your chosen item for each of the above senses we reviewed today.