Sense Is Worth More Than You Think

Imagine a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies just pulled from the oven. Is it the sight that makes you drool, the buttery sweet smell, or the anticipation of the warm chocolate gooiness spreading over your tongue with the first bite? The correct answer is all of the above.

God gave us five senses (doesn’t that spa look like an awesome get away after a day of writing?) that work in harmony. If you really want to connect with your reader, you’ll do the same. In each scene, your goal should be to incorporate as many senses as possible.

Let’s say you’ve got your character sitting out in a field. What might you describe?

Smell

Basswood blooms wafting on the breeze are a sweet fragrance. In fact, there are a lot of great aromas floating about in a field. But if you really want to poke your reader and leave a mark, don’t forget unexpected odors. Descriptions that twang a reader’s senses are what they’ll remember. In the case of smell, what about a surprising gust of vinegary sauerkraut? Who’d expect that? It could even play into your plot, throwing in a sideways twist.

Hearing

Birdsong. Bugs buzzing. A breeze shushing through the leaves. Those are all common sounds, but there are other, more obnoxious noises that are every bit as common. What about airplanes drowning out a conversation or construction workers banging away in the background? Even idyllic places have jarring sounds, and these make your story more realistic.

Sight

This is the number one sense that most writers nail without effort. The trick here is to weave in a little genuine humanity. In the case of the field, you can certainly wax verbose about wildflowers and rolling hills, but to really make it memorable what about the discarded water bottle out in the middle of nowhere? We’ve all seen it. Or maybe a WalMart bag peeking out from the bottom of a shrub. Not pretty, but definitely real.

Feeling

The sun heats your skin, and a gentle breeze tempers that warmth, but don’t forget about the prickly thistles that stick to your pant legs, then latch onto your fingers like unrelenting Velcro when you try to pick them off. Touch isn’t just about pleasant feelings. Remember to connect with the uncomfortable aspects of life.

Taste

This is most often seen as, “She ate a strawberry” or “He slugged back his coffee.” Nice action, but that doesn’t tell the reader a thing about how those items taste. Describe the flavor. Is it so sweet her teeth hurt? Sour enough that he wants to rip out his tongue and wipe it on his sweater? Taste can also be compared to a happy or sad memory. Puckerlicious lemonade always makes me think of my grandma’s front porch. Or have your character absolutely hate a food that most people love, making them more notable. After all, doesn’t every writer want their characters to remain in a reader’s mind long after they’ve closed the book?

This week challenge yourself to incorporate all five senses into your writing. It’s an easy investment that will pay off by connecting with your readers at an intimate level.