Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Using the Senses

Today's topic ties in with Showing vs. Telling. By Using the Senses, you can avoid those dreaded filter words associated with telling--felt, saw, heard, touched, etc. Since the post on Showing vs. Telling focused on sight, let's take a look at the other senses.

If you close your eyes when you're standing in the woods, what do you hear?
Leaves rustled in the light breeze and the rapid thunk, thunk, thunk of a woodpecker echoed through the trees.
I swatted at the persistent buzzing by my ear. Go away, mosquito!

How about when you're walking down the busy sidewalk of a large city?
A car horn blared somewhere down the block.
The drone of a hundred overlapped conversations created nonsensical garble as I waited to cross the street.

Smells and Tastes can trigger good and bad memories, drawing the reader deeper into the story.
I opened the door to call for Fido, and an acrid odor assaulted me. Not again! Time to haul out the tomato juice.
She followed the familiar scent of cinnamon to the kitchen. What was Mom baking this time? Cinnamon bread? Snickerdoodles?
One bite of the pickle had me leaning over the nearest trashcan to spit out the turpentine-flavored cuke.
A hint of mint cooled her taste buds with the first sip of tea.

The sense of touch can get a little tricky. Be sure to leave out "feel" words!
He skimmed his fingers along her silky skin.
The splintered edges stabbed at her palm, but she didn't let go.
The kitten's downy fur tickled my leg as she curled up next to me in bed.
How would they climb the jagged rocks without gloves?

Although good visuals can help the reader picture the scene in her head, certain smells, tastes, and sounds can evoke strong emotional reactions. Textures often cause pleasure or pain, whether real or sympathetic. Make good use of all the senses!

Next week's tip will be all about Worldbuilding!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!


  1. This is a good one, and one I struggle with, partly because as a person I am just not an observant person. I couldn't possibly tell you what colour eyes a person has even if I have known them all my life. So I have to work at putting in details after I have written it as it doesn't automatically occur to me as I am writing a story. I also have very little sense of smell so since I can't describe what something smells - or if it is good or bad - I very rarely include that sense. On the other hand I never get accused of too much descriptive prose! I shall take your suggestions on board.

    1. Over-describing pulls the reader out of the story too! Since smell seems to be your weakness, focus more on sounds and textures. The balance between visual and the other other senses is usually where I find stories lacking.

      Adding details after you've finished a first draft (layering) sounds like part of your writing process. Do what works for you!