Use your senses when you write your book

Sight, smell, taste, touch, sound

We did a little exercise here with our team members to find out how a simple story paragraph was understood with benefit of detailed perceptional information.

It occurred to us that this might be a good way to explain that readers need more sensory cues too! So when you write/edit your story content, try a few of these fun exercises:

Sight – detailed description of the image they should see – use a photograph, describe the content, show the person you described it to, and see if they saw what was actually in the picture – what details were missing? Did it change what would have been the integral to the setting of a story, character?

Smell – this is linked to memory and feelings – think about what instance your reader might experience this smell and describe that environment, situation, emotion with that in mind, e.g., the kitchen with sweet and savoury scents that waft like homegrown tomatoes and basil in a caring grandma’s garden on a hot summer day – can you feel the warmth and smell the pasta sauce?

Taste – while taste is actually mostly formed from smell, when people describe it they generally use other words like sweet, sour, salty, tangy, bland – so in conjunction with the point above you can add perhaps a comparison such as ‘the sauce was as sweet as a drop of glistening golden honey’.

Touch – Unlike above, this sense is everywhere that humans have sensory nerves. A hand on someone’s shoulder, is it heavy or light? Does it feel comforting or threatening? A morsel of food slipping down the character’s throat, is it finely chewed, coarse or smooth? Touching hands, are intertwined tightly or loose and casual? Each touch makes your characters and readers feel differently.

Sound – In an audiobook, you might be able to add sound effects. But generally reading written word, it takes percussion of a different kind to engage an sensory response. A pulse of the blender, rumble of the approaching train, grating of the metal on metal – can you hear it?

Particularly, fiction books need to create an emotional response and our senses help us do this. Write, read it out loud – can your senses assimilate?

How are you at including sensory clues in your text?

Writing in general…. Begin by setting a timeline – it helps make you accountable and keep things moving.  March-April is a good time to start planning your book publication while things are usually quiet.  While writing over the summer, you should also start organizing publication – audience and marketing items that might tie into your story creation with a purpose to sell.

Workshops that offer writing help: