"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Sixth Sense

I can't remember a movie in years that frightened me so much that I couldn't go to sleep--until I saw "The Sixth Sense" some years ago. Likewise, I was scared sleepless after reading "When Ghosts Speak," by Mary Ann Winkowski. Why? Because there could actually be ghosts among us and we can't see them. The possibility that something really exists makes it that much more frightening. Most of us can't see ghosts. Some of us can. Others might not be able to see them, but they can sense their presence. Thankfully, I don't fall into any of these categories, but just because I don't have the ability to know when ghosts are around, it doesn't mean I disallow their existence.

The supernatural is, according to Webster's dictionary (1) "of our relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe; esp: of or relating to God or a god, demigod, spirit, or devil. (2) departing from what is usual or normal esp. so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature."

Belief in the supernatural has been in our society from the beginning of time and has always been a part of life. Fear and uncertainty are most likely the roots of many of these beliefs.

As writers, we can put our imaginations to work for us and use the sixth sense in our stories and books right along with those other five senses I've been blogging about. For me, the sixth sense is super fun to work with because imagination completely rules and anything goes--well, almost anything as long as you, the writer, can make it believable enough that your readers will be afraid to go to sleep at night, or they'll double-check the doors to make sure they're still locked.

In the paranormal realm, there are a lot of different elements to work with besides ghosts. It's all those creepy, spine-chilling "feelings" we have that can't be explained. It's all those entities in every culture and corner of the earth that may or may not walk the earth; vampires, werewolves, skinwalkers, angels, demons, fairies, witches, monsters--and the list goes on. It's the possibility of being able to travel through time, or be reincarnated. It's the ability of second sight that allows us to foresee events or simple "see" them after they've happened. It's being able to reach the dead through a medium, or be contacted by the dead through a dream. It is magical powers derived from any number of things like certain stones, the moon, or witchcraft. It can be something as simple as believing that walking under a ladder will bring you seven years of bad luck, or wearing a certain necklace will protect you from evil.

In every myth there is an element of truth. It is your job as a writer to make your reader believe anything.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

More Sense of Touch

I found another really good example of the sense of touch. It's in Tom Piccirilli's book, The Midnight Road. In this scene, the main character has just fallen through an icy harbor in his car and he's stuck in his seat belt.

"The freezing water raged in, and with it came the intolerable cold and the crushing pressure of a darkness he had always known but had never had to endure before. Every nerve burned and schizzed out at once, and then there was only an insane numbness. The overwhelming terror soon swelled into something like comfort."

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sense of Touch

While looking for some good examples of the sense of touch, I came to the conclusion that we writers tend to dance around this one. We clearly don't take advantage of the many opportunities to use this sense in its full capacity, even in romance novels where there is a lot of touching going on. When we do use it, the words are not very descriptive; i.e., a "tender" touch or a "warm" embrace, etc.

What we feel with our fingertips can bring us pleasure or pain. It can warn us of danger or excite our desires. If we touch something too hot, we draw our hand back. If we brush up against a thistle, we pull away. A kiss might make us swoon, or if it's from someone whom we find repulsive, it might make us vomit. If you shake a person's hand, it might tell you if he is truly happy to meet you or if he'd just as soon wipe his hand off when the handshake is done. An embrace from someone might show how a person feels about you or a certain situation. You will feel their grief, happiness, understanding, or genuine love without the need for words. This sense can elicit some highly charged feelings in our lives and our relationships, from the newborn bonding to its mother, to two people developing a romantic relationship, or even a relationship that has grown old and cold with no passion remaining.

So why do we dance around this one? My guess is because it's rather difficult to find words to describe how something feels to the touch. It takes a bit more effort and creativity. Even things that might seem simple to describe, like a drop of rain on the tip of your tongue, or a puppy's fur against your cheek will still render rather uncreative descriptions like the "warm, wet rain," or the "puppy's soft fur."

Here are a few examples I found to get you thinking about how you can use this sense in your own writing. I know I'll certainly be more aware of it in my own.

From The Last Rodeo by Linda Sandifer:

"In the dream he could feel her fingers caressing the side of his face with a touch so light it could have come from a breath of wind, or the passing of a ghost."

From The White Mare by Jules Watson:

"Rhiann, leaning in on her knees, wriggled to get a better grip on the slippery body. Fire from the hearth glowed on waxy skin and smeared blood, and under the wisps of dark hair, tiny bones throbbed against her fingers."

From The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón:

"All I could absorb was the icy pressure of the gun's barrel sunk into my cheek, and the smell of gunpowder."

From Seven Minutes to Noon by Kate Pepper:

"Alice was surprised by the sudden warmth of Mike's hand slipping into hers. She squeezed his hand, greedily drinking in the rich warmth of Mike's skin, the solidity of his bones and muscles."

If anybody out there has some good ones, please share.