Friday Five – Write through the senses

Write through the senses

I got a wonderful tip from someone at writers group the other week. When writing a scene, write through all the senses. You can always delete and smooth things as you go through the editing process, however, when you are writing, the piece isn’t finished until you have written through all the senses.

In case you’ve forgotten, I’m using the Friday Five this week to go through the senses and some ideas of what you can write about them.

  1. Hear – what can your character hear? This could be silence, or subtle sounds. If your character is in a crowd, it could be general noise, or there could be something that stands out, such as a mother in a crowded shopping centre looking for her child and can hear the lost child crying. The noises could be significant, such as my example, or it could just be ambient noise to add colour to the scene.
  2. See – what can your character see? Instead of telling the reader your character is at school, for example, you could show that your character sees desks, chairs and other typical items in a classroom. Is there anything out of the ordinary, not matter how insignificant? This could be a clue to something that happens later in the story. Or the scene could be completely ordinary.
  3. Feel – what can your character feel, or how are they feeling? This sense could be literal, in that your character feels sand under their feet as they walk along the beach or the soft fur of a new puppy that has been adopted by the family. This could also be how your character is feeling. Are they feeling uneasy or happy or relaxed? It could be both of these, depending on what is happening in the scene.
  4. Smell – what can your character smell? Smells can give a lot of colour to a scene. Can your character smell freshly brewed coffee, or rubber burning as a car speeds off, or the overpowering smell of a lady wearing too much perfume? Smells can help to show a scene, especially if it’s something unusual or familiar. For example a child could wake up and find there’s no coffee smell that morning because Mum and Dad have slept in, or the child could wake to the unfamiliar smell of freshly brewed coffee because Grandma is staying over.
  5. Taste – what can your character taste? This could be a hard one if your character isn’t eating, but can work. Does a smell prompt the character to taste something? For example, the smell of a Christmas cake baking could have your character remembering how they normally taste, or a memory of the year that Aunt Simone made the cake and put too much baking powder in. It could also show anxiety with your character feeling sick and having a horrible taste in their mouth.

I know there are a lot of these senses I don’t add, however this is something I want to be more aware of, especially in short stories, as I think this will add more depth to the scene and character. I’m also hoping this will help with “Show don’t tell” in my stories.

Do you write through the senses?

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