Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Hone the Five Senses to Improve Your Writing
As writers, we mostly use the sense of sight in our descriptions, but we can enrich our stories by consciously using the other four senses as well. Finding just the right place to insert this information can be tricky, but one good way is to "show" it through the viewpoint of a character; i.e., through their five senses rather than putting it in a lengthy narrative that slows the action and causes the reader to tune out.
All of us are more attuned to our surroundings when we step out of our own environment and see something for the first time. Remember what it was like to be a child when you noticed everything around you and it was all a wonder to behold? You were so fascinated by everything and you had so many questions about life and the world. If that was too long ago to recollect ☺ then watch your children and grandchildren as they encounter the world around them. If you see the world again through their inquisitive eyes, you'll find your own senses sharpened.
Try this exercise: The next time you leave the house, even if it's only to go to the grocery store, plug your senses into your surroundings (turn off your Blackberry, your IPod, and leave your laptop at home). Then make yourself look around you as if you've just stepped off the bus (or the spaceship) into a strange town (or onto a new planet). You'll be surprised at everything you take for granted and everything that you've grown so accustomed to that you have blocked it all from your mind. When you later sit at the computer to paint your word pictures, allow your imagination to connect to your newly attuned senses and you will more effectively draw your reader into your story.
Coming up: Some examples of how the five senses have been successfully incorporated into published works.