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Using the Senses in Writing

September 15, 2016

When you walk into a courthouse, you might SEE people gather in small groups down the hall. You might HEAR whispers or a baby crying loudly. You might FEEL the cool air from the air conditioning. SMELL the perfume the woman next to you is wearing. TASTE the salt from the potato chips you purchased from the vending machine.

When you write a scene for your story, you want your reader to be transported mentally. That’s the first thing you want to do, and to do this effectively, you must evoke the reader’s senses. As we all know, there are five senses—those I mentioned above.

I have a challenge for you: get your favorite sweater. How does it feel when you rub the fabric between your fingers? Does it itch? Next time you are taking a shower, turn the water on cold for a moment. How’d it feel? Did it take your breath away? Look around your bedroom. If you were writing a story, how would you describe this room? When at the grocery story, what do you see, hear, smell?

Become conscious of your senses and use them to be descriptive in the next scene you write. Be aware of your adjectives and make sure you use the right words. A chemical smell might be “pungent.” Pine trees might be “odoriferous” with a “fresh” scent.

There is plenty more that goes into creating a scene, but for now, I challenge you to create a scene employing all five senses.

You might start by writing: “I walked into the grocery store and was immediately met by a cool burst of air. It was over ninety degrees outside, so I was relieved to be out of the sun. As I pushed my cart past the deli, I could smell the frying chicken, and the sight of all the food in the display case made my stomach growl, reminding me how hungry I was. I was salivating at the thought of biting into a piece of crispy chicken to get to the tender meat beneath the skin, when the wailing of a child broke me from my fantasy. I remembered the items I had come to purchase and headed for the back of the store.”

It’s good practice, so try it and let me know how it works for you.

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5 Comments
  1. Feedback: When I have used my educational (psychological) background to instruct bloggers there’s been some resistance. I think it works much better if we come down from our pinnacle and share like just another person. I think readers might be more welcoming if you focussed on becoming just another human being rather than an adviser. I guess I’m not saying this well so I hope you don’t take it wrong.

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    • I didn’t take it wrong. I certainly welcome all feedback. My suggestions, lessons, challenges, info are only meant to be from one writer to another. We are all teachers and students in this craft. Again, thanks for the feedback. Son you studied Psychology, hug? When I re-enroll in Coastline Community College, I will be majoring in social and behavioral sciences.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting thoughts. Sounds like a good exercise?

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    • Yes, I use it as an exercise. Sometimes, when I walk into a room, I pretend I’m a character in a book or movie and imagine how the scene would be written.

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