Writing with the Five Senses

I’m taking another on-line class about writing Romance. You can never learn too much! Today’s lesson was about writing Sensuality and Emotion. It was a good lesson and it made me remember what an instructor told a class I was in years ago that stuck with me. She said never to forget the five senses when you are crafting a scene.

If your scene takes place outside what does it look like? Is the sky bright an blue? What does it feel like? Is the sun warm on your skin or is it windy and blowing your hair into your eyes? What does it smell like? Is it earthy because a field has just been plowed or is the scent of wild flowers on the breeze? What does your character hear? Are bees buzzing over the wild flowers? Cows lowing in the distance? Perhaps your character pulls a piece of fruit from a tree and bites into it. He enjoys the tart, juice as it runs over his tongue. Perhaps he’s walking through a dark forest and he feels and hears the crunch of dried leaves beneath his feet and smells the musty odor of decaying vegetation.

You can easily see how using the five senses can quickly enrich a scene for your reader. Almost everyone has experienced feeling the sunshine on their face or bitten into a juicy piece of fruit. They know what it feels like for a cold breeze to raise goose flesh on their skin. This is one of the best techniques a writer can use to engage his reader in a scene, whether its walking across a hot, dry desert in a Western or trekking through a swampy jungle on an alien planet. Using the five senses will put your reader right there with your character, tasting the hot, savory stew in a smoky pub in Victorian England or a fantasy world of your crafting.

I write a good bit of erotic content. The five senses are important there as well. Every woman knows how it would feel if a rough, calloused hand brushed over her silky skin. She’s tasted stale alcohol on her lover’s tongue during a kiss and been aroused by the musky scent of aftershave or turned off by bad breath. You get my drift.

Many times while I’m editing my work, I’ll read a scene I’ve written and then add in the five senses. Roxie is sitting in a stagecoach. (Too simple. Let’s beef it up a bit.) Roxie is jolted in her seat as the coach hits a rock on the narrow trail. She can taste the dust in her mouth from the road. It irritates her nose as badly as the smoke from the smelly cigars the shabbily dressed man across from her is smoking. The cracked and worn leather scrapes her tender hands as she tries to right herself in the rocking coach.Queen of the Cow Towns cover

Roxie goes from simply sitting in a stagecoach. The reader now knows it’s a rough, dusty ride. We know the seats are old and cracked. There is also another passenger and he’s a smoker. The reader is now rocking in that coach with Roxie, tasting the dust and smelling the cigar smoke.

Using the five senses is the easiest way to put your reader into the scene with your character. It was by far the best piece of writing advise I’ve ever received.

If you are struggling for word count, going back and adding the five senses to your scenes is also a plus.

Until the next time, Write On!

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