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.