Please give my writerly friend, Laura L. Smith a warm welcome! She writes real stories for real girls. She is a featured columnist at Choose Now Ministries http://nicoleodell.com/laura-l-smith-on-true-beauty/ and speaks at schools, churches and campuses around the country. www.laurasmithauthor.com
Imagine springtime this year without the earthy scent of freshly mown grass, the vibrant yellows of daffodils, the sweet trills of robins, the warmth of sunshine on your face or the rich, creamy taste of chocolate bunnies from your Easter basket.
Just as we wouldn’t want to miss a single aspect of spring, we don’t want to deprive our characters, plots, dialogues and readers of those sensations either.
I’m writing this blog from my favorite cozy coffee shop, with amazing atmosphere. But the words “cozy” and “amazing” don’t help you understand what it’s like here. I need to use better words. I need to use my five senses. So, let’s find a seat and chat about this writing tool.
We could either sit at one of the tall stools looking out the front window, in the giant orange crushed velvet couch that looks like it came out of a Scooby Doo episode, or in my favorite, one of the booths with cracked black, leather seats and glossy, polished wood tables. There. We used the first sense – sight – this one is the most utilized sense in writing. Probably, because we so predominately rely on sight in life. We are drawn to the sweater that “looks cute” in a store window before knowing if it’s comfortable, if it fits us, or if we can afford it. We often choose the yummiest “looking” dessert, before we’ve ever tasted it. Using sight, is as simple as explaining what something looks like. Make sure to use a variety of descriptions — height, color, spatial references and analogies all work.
Close your eyes and listen. I hear the whirr of the espresso machine, the clang of ceramic cups, the buzz of multiple murmured conversations and Sufjan Stevens singing in a raspy, melodic voice along to his acoustic guitar over the sound system. Can you hear them? Can you imagine you’re here? That’s what you want your reader to do — immerse themselves in your scene, feel like they’re actually in your story. Whenever in doubt how to use sound in your writing, do what we just did. Close your eyes and imagine what you hear in your scene, than incorporate it into your text.
Sadly, taste is the most underutilized of our senses in writing. With all of the deliciousness in the world, this is a shame. I’m often asked, how can I use taste if my story doesn’t involve eating? My answer is – be creative. Taste is not limited to the robust, caramel flavor of the Fair Trade Highlander Grogg in my mug. Gum can be cool and minty or sharp and cinnamony. I can walk past someone smoking a cigarette or by a bus and taste the foul, thick smoke of either lingering in the air. Kisses are delicious – from kissing a baby on the forehead and tasting their sweet, powdery innocence or kissing your grandma and tasting the heavy, floral perfume, she’s been wearing since before time began.
Brrr. It’s chilly when someone enters through the side door and lets in a blast of damp, April, Ohio air. I’m shivering a little on this squishy, leather seat. To combat the chill, I wrap my hands around the welcome warmth coming from my smooth, ceramic mug. Touch. There isn’t a scene you write that can’t contain feeling – and we’re not talking happy, sad or angry, I mean the way something feels if you touch it. Use texture, temperature, weather, clothing, furniture – anything your character’s body comes in contact with to convey this tactile sense.
I love when I get home, pull my laptop from my purse, and the lingering, bold, rich aroma of java drifts from the keyboard. But there is also the smell of Panini’s at the shop, slathered with butter, grilling behind the counter and the pungent odor of bleach, sharp against my sinuses, when I visit the bathroom. Other customers smell of cologne, patchouli, sweat, or outdoors as they walk by my table. By adding the sense of smell, we add a rich layer to our descriptions. The sense of smell is tied to memory and experience.
I’m going to finish my coffee and savor the way my five senses are stimulated in this shop.
Where are you writing today? Which of your senses is being particularly stirred, or which ones are you struggling to capture? I’d love to hear.
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