Thanks for stopping by the blog today! I’ve got author Brenna Zinn visiting this fine Wednesday to talk about using the senses in your writing.
Take it away Brenna!
Ever run across the sweet, heady smell of honeysuckle while driving in the country? Can you close your eyes and visualize the vibrant reds and pinks of a sunset, or the pale greens of a newly budded tree? Can you imagine the brush of a feather against the backside of your knee? When you think about licking a freshly cut lemon and allowing its tangy juice to linger on your tongue, does your mouth water? Does the sound of honking of horns and screech of tires make you cringe?
Now think about what you’ve just read and how those words affected your senses. Did you smell the honeysuckle? See the reds, oranges, and greens? How about that lemon? Could you almost taste it?
The human mind tends to react to sensory suggestions, even suggestions taken in through written words. After a person experiences a sound, touch, taste, etc., the mere mention of the experienced sense can quickly evoke a sensory response.
For a writer, this is powerful information. Why? Because you can control what your readers see, smell, taste, hear, and feel simply by choosing one word over another. For example, consider the impact of changing just a few words in the following sentences.
I rubbed my hand against the furry softness of the cashmere sweater.
I rubbed my hand against the slick, almost wet skin of the snake.
I opened the door and was nearly knocked down by the oppressive heat and humidity.
I opened the door and was nearly knocked down by the frigid north wind.
Below are two paragraphs from my current work-in-progress. At least three senses (sight, sound, touch) are used to help my reader get into the scene.
Dagger parked the Vette alongside the white picket fence framing the front yard of the Benson’s conch house. The old two story home, a combination of Victorian and Bahamian style architectures, had been built by someone in the Benson family over a hundred years ago and had stayed in the family since. Though the home was ancient, the paint job wasn’t. The last time he’d been here, the house had been a bright yellow. Now a light blue with bright white gingerbread trim, the place had never looked better.
The sound of music drifted from somewhere inside the house as soon as Dagger killed the engine. Strolling up the steps to the covered veranda, he could feel the twangy beats of some country song vibrating over his skin. He knocked on the door several times knowing good and well no one inside could possibly hear his arrival over the din, then let himself in.
When you write, carefully sprinkle in sensory words to for greater reader involvement. You want the readers to experience what your heroines and heroes experience and become immersed in their story. If you can coax the people who buy your books to completely lose themselves in the make-believe worlds of your stories, maybe they’ll come back for more.
Great advice, Brenna! Don’t forget to check out Brenna’s website at http://www.brennazinn.com. And follow her on Twitter @BrennaZinn.
How about you? Do you work to put the senses in your writing? Do you stick mostly with sight and sound?