Day 6 – Showing and the Five Senses

To make our stories come alive, we need to use our five senses when we write. You have heard this before. It shouldn’t be new.  Our description needs to include, smell, taste, sight, sound, and touch.  It needs to focus in on the finest of details. We’re going to cover each sense in a separate post during this week and work on some descriptive writing exercises to help us use each sense in our ancestor’s story.

Before we begin to experiment with the five senses, I think it is important to understand how the senses can help us turn our telling sentences into showing sentences. As well how the senses can help you to bring a unique voice to your stories.

Often writers rely on words like he saw, she heard, we smelled, they tasted, and she felt to express a description.

For example:

Edna smelled the stew burning on the stove as she tended to her crying baby.

We are telling the reader what Edna smelled.

Instead, we should cut the verb smelled out to make the sentence more active and to show instead of telling what your ancestor smelled. It also offers an opportunity for more interesting description.

For example:

Edna bounced her crying baby as the stench of scorched stew filled the kitchen.

This is showing. We can see this happening and can smell the burnt stew even though we haven’t used the word smelled.

This is not to say we can’t use the word smell, saw, heard, touched and tasted when writing our sentences.  But they can be used as a crutch and when we try to write a sentence without using those five sense words we pay more attention to the descriptive details and voice through which we express the story.

Similes are a figure of speech that compares two, unlike things that resemble each other.  They are also an excellent tool to remove those crutch words and bring more interesting description to your story.

We can use a simile and the word smell too but in a more creative format, using a simile to help bring the description to more showing than telling.

For example

Edna bounced her crying baby, as the pot of stew bubbled to the surface and the kitchen began to smell like the burning brush of an October day.

It’s important to make sure you don’t use those five sense words as aids.  You need to bring a more vibrant voice and an eye for details when you write.  The narrator’s voice is part of the draw of your story not just for the content of the story but the voice which is brought to life through the words you choose to present that story make it uniquely your own.