As a writer, it can be easy sometimes, to focus on those senses that we consider to be most predominant, such as sight or our hearing. By using all five senses in our writing, we are capable of creating a hyper-realistic world for our readers. Here are several suggestions for how to incorporate the five senses into your writing.
Sight is one of the more obvious senses; it is such an integral part of our life experience, that it’s often easiest to describe how we see the world around us, (or the worlds in our imagination!). It is easy for writers to sometimes forget how to describe a scene using sight. The the adage of ‘show, not tell’ in writing is essential when it comes to describing a scene.
Hearing is also a valuable sense that can add so much to writing. I find sound to be most effective when I’m creative suspense. Much of our ‘real world’ involves so much ambient noise, that we dismiss a lot of what we hear. Sometimes noting the absence of sound can be even more powerful than a sound itself. Making note of certain noises helps readers to set the scene, and to create a realistic setting in their minds.
The sense of smell is the sense most commonly associated with memory. It is also the most subtle and nuanced of the senses. I find that it is a particularly valuable sense in setting the scene for the reader. Noting the odours associated with the scene, helps the reader to solidify the scene in their mind. Scent can also help characters to emote, by associating negative or positive emotions with certain odours.
Taste is one of the senses that is often overlooked in writing, and yet it can add so much detail to a world, or a particular scene. One of the most masterful writers of taste, is Brian Jacques, author of the Redwall series. His descriptions of food, and their taste has inspired cookbooks, websites, and blog posts, all devoted to bringing his imagination to life!
Tender freshwater shrimp garnished with cream and rose leaves, deviled barley pearls in acorn puree, apple and carrot chews, marinated cabbage stalks steeped in creamed white turnip with nutmeg… crusty country pasties, and these were being served with melted yellow cheese and rough hazelnut bread.
This description of food is so wonderful it makes my mouth water! Being able to bring such detail, and nuance to your readers is essential to world-building.
Touch is an important sense to focus on, especially in fantasy writing. In my novels, I have created several magical objects that don’t exist in ‘the real world’. It is essential then, that I describe these objects considering things like weight, temperature, and texture. Conveying these elements to the reader makes the fantastical objects from my imagination become more real to them.
Do you consider all 5 senses in your writing? Tell me in the comments below!
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