Beyond the Five Senses

Why do we incorporate the five senses in our writings?

Often it’s to help us show rather than tell. “There was a damp chill in the air” tells us (and the characters), indirectly, to grab a jacket. Instead of writing that “the orange juice was sweet”, how about, “it was like drinking a glass filled with sunshine.” Also, writing with the senses may help:

– make readers feel they are part of the experience in such a way as to breathe life into a setting, a person, an animal and so on.

– to keep our work from seeming two dimensional. Utilizing the senses fleshes things out to make them appear more real.

– to promote understanding in readers. Why does this house seem haunted? Why is the woman moving so slowly?

But writing using the senses can also help readers focus on the qualities of a person, place or thing. For instance, in my latest, MURDEROUS MEANS, a psychic is introduced. Readers are told that Heidi is around thirty, looks a certain way, and definitely behaves in a certain way. Is she legitimate or not? Where is she coming from? Why is she even in the story?

Using the senses of sight and hearing, readers have the opportunity to learn about Heidi’s qualities beyond just the physical: she has insecurities which make her appear arrogant; that make her engage in certain actions. She has her own agenda and won’t waver from it. Uncovering her qualities encourages readers to ask why Heidi behaves a certain way, which in turn leads to understanding.

I so appreciate gaining some understanding of myself when I’m reading about the behavior and mindsets of others, including of fictional characters. What can I learn from a situation is a question I often ask myself and have my heroine, Corrie, ask herself. This is how we grow as humans and how our hero/ines grow as the stars of our fiction. 


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