Using Your Senses in Writing

“Describe a moment in time. Make me feel like I am there.” This was an English assignment I had in college.

How do you do that? In a sense, we do it when we are “showing” in our writing verses “telling” the reader what to see. The key words in that English assignment was “Make me feel like I am there.”

In order to make the reader feel what our characters are experiencing, we have to make them become the character they are reading about. We can do this by using our 5 senses in our writing.

Sight

Pretend you are a camera following this person around. What does your character see? Do they see a “scary figure” or do they see “a seven-foot man holding a sharp object in his clenched fist”? Show your reader what your character sees.

Some sensory words for sight include:

Appearance:

  • Blinding
  • Tall
  • Hypnotizing

Colors:

  • Red
  • Aqua
  • Purple

Shapes:

  • Round
  • Octagon
  • Rectanlge

Hear

Sight shouldn’t be the only sense we adhere to. Hearing plays an important part in what the character percieves is going on. They might hear a “loud noise” or they might hear “a thunderous BOOM. When we tell that the character heard a noise, we don’t get what they are feeling. However, if there is a thunderous BOOM, we understand that there is a more threatening situation.

Some sensory words for hearing:

  • Boom
  • Screeching
  • Thump
  • Roaring

Smell

I used an example in A Star in the Night of showing what my character experienced. Instead of saying, David liked the smell of the bakery, I wrote, “Sweet smells of sugary cakes and icing swirled through the air. David’s stomach growled.”

Taste

The sense of taste instantly gives us a positive or negative experience. If our character tastes something they don’t like, we want our reader to understand the extent of what our character feels. Instead of saying that the character didn’t like lemons, we might say that he pursed his lips in response to the sour taste.

Since smell and taste go together we often can use the same or similar sensory words. Some examples of these sensory words are:

  • Sweet
  • Sour
  • Bland

Touch

Much of what our brain percieves is percieved through touch. Let’s look at a character holding a brush. If this is important in the scene or the story, we want this to stick out in the reader’s mind. So, instead of saying that the brush was too rough for the dog, we might say, that the brush’s bristles scratched the back of her hand.

Some sensory words for touch include:

  • Bristly
  • Sticky
  • Fluffy

In my research for this post I came across a senseory word list from the 34 Kiwis blog. This is a great start to help brainstorm some of these sensory words. Using sensory detail in writing amplifies your character’s experience and goes a long way in “showing” instead of “telling.”

For more tips, first look at interviews, free coloring pages and a free lesson plan, click here.

The Writer’s Craft Summit

I just happened to see a post on one of my groups telling about the Writer’s Craft Summit. I’ve been looking for something like this for a while. The videos are free to watch during the timeframe of the summit.

I’ve seen a few videos so far, but one of my favorites is the video titled “Creating Complex Characters”.  Megan Linski had many great suggestions on how to develop your character. One thing that really hit me was when she said how difficult it is to write your novel if you haven’t fully developed your character yet. She mentioned that sometimes the character sheets we use to develop our characters can limit our creativity. One suggestion is to interview and observe your character. Put them in situations and see what they do. I loved these ideas and I definitely plan to apply this to my work in progress.

My Work in Progeress is a novel that I have been working on for a long time. I go through dry spells with it because I often feel I hit a wall. After watching this video I am inspired to take another serious look at my book’s characters and see where they need to further develop.

One thing I asked myself was, What do you love about your favorite characters in other novels? Can you predict what they would do? How did the author convey this character’s traits so clearly? I definitely walked away from that video inspired.

Have you joined the Writer’s Craft Summit? What video did you enjoy?

W is for Weary # A to Z Blogging Challenge

You knew I’d pick this word, didn’t you? After all, we’re on the letter W for the A to Z Blogging challenge and the word Weary is just too perfect for my theme.

By now, after blogging for 27 days straight (except Sundays), you can bet this blogger is growing weary. The thing keeping me going is knowing that the finish line to this marathon is now in sight. And while it has certainly helped me gain a better blogging routine, I feel that blogging weekly might be a better fit for my personal and other writing schedule.


I’m pretty sure getting “weary” in the blogging process happens to most of us. I find that a change of scenery helps when the computer screen is just a dull, blank, uninspirational sheet staring back at me. If it’s a nice day, I might take a nice walk. It’s interesting what ideas and thoughts occur to you as you walk. 

Another thing I do is if I know I’m going to be busy one week, then I plan out my posts. For example this weekend that passed, all three of my children were in a play that had 3 show times throughout the weekend. That was just the show. That didn’t include preparing and feeding everyone. So I planned for that. Had I tried to squeeze it in, I’m sure I would have felt overwhelmed. 

One final thought about defeating the blogging weariness, is to find something that energizes you. It could be a break with a good book. It could be mental break of a day out with a friend. Or it could mean a nice cup of caffeine. Whatever it is, recharge. 


R is for Rejections

As Editor-in-Chief of My Light Magazine, I had run into times where I’ve had to reject a manuscript. It’s the thing I like LEAST about running the magazine.  However, if the magazine is to improve and accomplish it’s goal to spread the Catholic faith to our readers, we must be selective.

As writers, how should we handle rejections? The professional thing to do would be to take the editor’s advice – if any is offered (see Why You Get Form Rejections) and resubmit elsewhere. Unless the editor asks for a resubmission, I would avoid it.  If you are fortunate enough for this request, be sure to refresh the editor’s memory by simply stating, “Per your request I have addressed the issues and am resubmitting…”.
It rarely helps to defend your manuscript once it is rejected. Yes, you will be remembered by the editors – but not the way you hope.You don’t want to be remembered for negative behavior and risk appearing unprofessional.

The best thing to do is run the manuscript through your critique group – yes  YET AGAIN, reassess your markets, and submit elsewhere.
The effort will pay off. That manuscript will be ready for that one right publication. Then it and you will be remembered for your writing skill – not your reaction to a rejection.

Jen’s Writing Tip# 6 Top Ten Questions to Ask Your Character

When writing a story, it’s important to know your character. It’s been said you should know your character as well as you know yourself. One way to do that is to “interview” your character. You aren’t going to use all the information you come up with, but you will have a rich background of information to choose from.

How do you interview a character? Put yourself in the frame of mind of your character. What would she say or do in response to the questions? Before you know it, your character might not be able to stop talking.

Here are my top ten questions I ask my character:

10. Where do you live?

9. Who is in your family?

8. Do you get along with your family?

7. Who is your best friend and why?

6. What do you think of school? Is it fun, boring, horrifying?

5. What is the best thing that ever happened to you? Worst?

4. What do you like to do when you aren’t in school or with your friends?

3. What do you do when you get upset? Do you have a special place you go, or a routine you follow?

2. What do you think of boys/girls?

1. Tell me one interesting thing that your best friend doesn’t even to know.

I’m sure you can come up with even more questions. Once you get an idea of who your character is, you might end up with pages of questions to ask them. That’s okay. The more you know, the better your readers will enjoy your character.

Happy Writing!

Jen’s Writing Tip #5 It’s Fiction,But Is It Real?


The 10-year old hero of your story meets the villain. Before your hero jumps in a car, flies a plane or a space ship, make sure these elements make sense. Is your story set in a normal, human world where you wouldn’t see these events, or is it set in a new world – maybe another planet. In our every day life, it would be hard to believe a young child would fly a space ship or plane. But, if you created a world in your story where this is the norm, flying a spaceship to catch the villain may work nicely. When you are trying to sell your work to an editor and the reader, you want to make sure your story makes sense and the reader can “see” the events happening. Readers are clever and they sense when a character is being true to the story. If the reader feels cheated, we loose the reader. So go ahead and write that fabulous story! When it’s finished and your readers read that fictional story – will it feel real to them?