Happy Friday everyone! Casey here with more writing tips to share.
One piece of advice that new writers (and even non-newbies) hear frequently is – “Use the five senses.” This is a corollary to “show, don’t tell.” If you want to show, not tell, then one of the ways to do that is to use the five senses.
We all know what the five senses are: taste, touch, hearing, smell, and sight. But how does one seamlessly incorporate the senses into writing?
1. Be in the moment. One of my favorite techniques is to think in first person, even if the book is in third person. If your character walks into a room, ask yourself – what does he or she see? What do they hear? What do they smell? Now, you do not have to incorporate all three of these senses in the scene. Only if they are relevant (more on that later.)
Cherry Cordial, The Undead Space Initiative, taking a good look at Ian McDevitt.
Not wanting to look at his tempting neck again, I stared at his hands instead. Big mistake. Long tapered fingers, smooth palms, and a crescent shaped scar between his thumb and forefinger. I like a man with big strong hands.
2. Use the sense or senses, that fit the scene. Writing a love scene? Then that is a place where you might want to concentrate more on touch, taste, smell. But don’t forget sounds and sight can be sensual too. This is the place for silken skin, a lover’s sigh or the coppery glint of firelight in the heroine’s hair. You get the picture!
From Misfortune Cookie:
“Gabriel, this is so good. I haven’t had anything like this since my grandmother’s.” The flaky crust melted in my mouth. Tart apples, perfectly tender and coated with cinnamon and spices exploded with flavor. And the ice cream, so thick and creamy, had to be homemade.
3. Use the senses well and with restraint. It’s easy to go a little crazy and over describe! Overuse of the five senses can cause your reader to put the book down. Also, use them logically. If it’s an action scene, then your heroine or hero is unlikely to stop and take the time to wax poetic about a particular sight or smell. But maybe, they’ve been injured and they can taste the metallic tang of blood in their mouth. Or there is a sound that gets your heroine’s attention.
Meaty thwacks rang out in the alley as I passed by.
Do not look.
A soft oomph, followed by a clipped English accent, “Try that again, bastards.”
4. Make or find lists of five senses words. And steer clear of the over-used ones if you can. I see this a lot in paranormals- all the alpha males smell like “dark spices.” This is also true in love scenes where it’s easy to overdo the “colorful words” and start using euphemisms instead aka purple prose!
From Mystic Ink:
Heat pressed against his side, comforting him. When he wrapped his arm
around the warmth, a feminine sigh escaped.
5. Look for places where you’re telling and not showing. If you have – he smelled cookies, then replace it with how the cookies smelled.
From Mystic Ink:
A sultry summer breeze drifted by, carrying the sickening sweet scent of decay mixed with salt water from the nearby Mystic River. She wrinkled her nose. The heat wasn’t doing the corpse any favors either. The wind reversed. Cinnamon and warm dough from the bakery next door wiped away the stench.
You can always add the five senses in after you complete the first draft. If you find it’s hanging you up while writing, skip them and come back to it in editing.
Practice exercise: Observe the photo below and apply the fives senses. (Yes. These are my cupcakes of doom. Those of you who have tasted them have a leg up! Hopefully you liked them!).
Remember this is practice, no input from The Doubt Monster allowed.
Happy writing everyone! What are your tips for using the five senses? And if you have questions, ask away!
Speaking of senses, over at my blog, I share a recipe – Galloping Goulash!