vintage butterfly red

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sensory Writing

Sometimes beginning authors, such as myself, forget to include the other senses in our writing. Sight is simple, we cannot imagine reading a book that doesn't include this. ( Although, I'd love to try a book done in first person narrative about a blind character!) But the other four, Hearing, Feeling, Taste and Scent, may often be left out. Here's some advice from Catherine Woolley's Writing For Children  that will help you decide when to include these other sensations. Don't let the title mislead you! There's great information in here for all types of writers.

Hearing- When wanting to create a certain mood, the sense of hearing is especially useful. Think of the sounds you recall from childhood or any happy period. The fair, the movie theater, the park, or a secret garden. When creating a suspenseful or creepy mood, minimize Sight and maximize Hearing. It a truth universally acknowledged that what we can't see frightens us, so make sure to take advantage of this in your writing!

Feeling-  Describe how your characters feel the heat of a boiler room, let them feel the icy splash of a spring creek, or the itchy crawling of ants, or the rough texture of asphalt as it grinds off skin during a fall.

Taste and Scent- Woolley advises that authors "use smell and taste to the hilt" Our sense of smell is the most nostalgic.summer's onion smelling grass,  smokey fragrance of barbecued chicken, the trace of fireworks in the night air. Every character eats, don't forget to let your readers also have a taste. Sipping sweet hot cocoa, the tangy taste of an orange. One I particularly liked was "bacon strips that felt like pieces of salty leather on his tongue", which is both feeling and taste. Often some scents and tastes can be interchangeable, food can taste smokey and the air can smell sweet.

If done correctly, the readers will experience these things with the character and feel as though they've been silently following alongside the whole time. Also make sure you don't overdo it. If a character drinks something out of the ordinary, an elixir of some sort, you don't have to describe it every time, once or twice should be enough especially if the first description is strong. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What are you listening to?

When writing, I notice that certain music helps the words flow more smoothly from my head. Rarely its soundtrack movies, but most of the time it's not even music I'm listening to. The most helpful track on my MP3 player or computer is the sound of thunder and rain. It's so relaxing, and if I get a good candle burning (I adore First Rain from Pier1), then I can slip right into the setting of my novel. Sometimes I crank the AC up real high to give myself a chill. It probably sounds a bit crazy but I think it's a thousand times more engaging writing when you're surrounded by the setting than when you're just sitting on your bed, typing on your laptop. I'm not exactly sure if reading with the soundtrack is as engaging or harmful. What do you do, if anything, to create atmosphere when you're reading/writing?