#ATOZChallange: S is for Senses

For the A-Z challenge, I am posting writing and editing tips to help you improve and enhance your writing.

S is for Senses

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The world is three-dimensional, full of colour, sounds, smells, tastes, textures. Your characters live in a three-dimensional world too; a world that you need to bring to life for your readers.

May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, fatly baffled in the sun.’

Arundhati Roy – The God of Small Things

When I read this, I can feel the intensity of the heat, smell the rotting fruit, hear the insects. It’s a beautiful description, every word carefully chosen, brilliantly put together.

If you want to bring your reader into a scene, if you want them to be immersed, to experience what your character is experiencing, then you need to consider all five senses.

Vision – what’s ahead, behind, just out of sight? If your character is looking down, what’s underfoot?

Sound – this can really help to build a scene; the snap of a twig, breathing, a snatch of a song that brings a memory to mind.

Smell – a fragrance, an aroma, a stench – the things we smell can be so evocative, reminding us of something or someone, or placing a character firmly in a certain place.

Touch – how does something feel? The texture, the weight, the temperature.

Taste- this can be a tricky one. But taste, like smell, can be so evocative. A certain flavour can take us back to childhood, for example. And it doesn’t have to be food – use your imagination!

A word of caution though – remember less is more. You don’t need to bring all five senses into every scene. What you need to do is to create a world with your words that your reader can imagine, a world where your characters can live.

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8 comments

  1. Thanks so much for this reminder, Alison. I have noticed that there are some people who need to flesh out their work and add description and others who really need to strip their work back. My son is 11 and I’m working on helping him flesh his stories out.It’s been like pulling teeth. Must share these ideas with both my kids.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your quote I’m sat right there too, feeling the heat and hearing the buzzing flies, I want to taste the fruit ripening on the trees. Sometimes I have to describe a book as being a two dimensional read where I feel like I’m watching the characters in a computer game. That’s when a book could use more of the senses.

    Liked by 1 person

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