Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Using the Senses in Writing

I'm currently reading, "Make a Scene" by Jodan E. Rosenfeld, and in one chapter, she describes the importance, and effectiveness of using the senses in writing. I'm going to summarize some of her points here, which I found immensely helpful.

"...the senses are a part of everyday life, so they should, in fact, be blended into your scenes as an integral part of the stage you set."

Sight: "The more you can place the readers inside the vision and point of view of your characters and remove the Iof them seeing, the more directly the reader will interact with sights, smells and other senses in the scene."

For example, rather than saying:
"Celeste saw..."

You say:
"The romantic, red field was blanketed with yellow-centered poppies."

So, rather than using the act of seeing, you just get straight to the point!

Touch: "In fact, a character won't get more than a couple of minutes into the day before he begins to interact with the world by touching things."

Touch should be one of the most often used senses. There are many ways of touching--nervous, fidgeting, practical and strategic touch, and, of course, personal touch. I know very few people who don't do something with their hands when nervous or excited. Touch will help reveal a lot about your characters.

Smell: "If you need to go back in time to a scene from your character's plast and you can use the smell of peaches at a grocery store to drop Becky into the peach orchard where she first met Eduardo, the love of her life, by all means use it."

Smell should also be used often, in nearly every scene. It can be used to identify the presence of another character, reveal the difference between hero (smells like roses) and villain (smells like sewer), and evoke memory.

Taste: "Taste provides a fabulous opportunity for feelings and interactions between your characters to arise. Through the simple act of lifting a fork to mouth, your characters can come to epiphanies, exalt in simple pleasures, and enact conflicts that enliven your scenes."

Food is an important part of our lives and it can reveal much about your character. Don't skip meals or you miss out on an opportunity to show us something about your character and their relationships with others. For example, depressed characters can't finish meals, a lover might spend hours preparing meals for their loved one, or a mother's dinner might fail because she has a lot on her mind.

How do you use the senses in your writing? What is your favorite example of using senses in writing?


Scott said...

I like Make A Scene. I'd definitely recommend it. There's lots of good stuff in there.

Julie Daines said...

Good post. I often need this reminder!