Writing Tools: The Five Senses

A story is so much more than just a recounting of events with a few characters spouting some dialogue.

You want to create characters that really speak to your reader and engage his or her emotions, and make them care about what happens to them.

You want to offer your reader a compelling narrative with a dilemma at its heart. You want your reader to cheer when the characters overcome their difficulty or find personal or emotional fulfilment. And this is another Writing Tool I should look at.

But you also want the reading experience to be as immersive as possible so that your reader can lose herself in the world you have created. It’s particularly important when your wish is to transport her to somewhere that she can never have seen for herself.

For this you want to engage the five senses: sight, scent, sound, taste, and touch.

Sight is the most common one: descriptions of how a person or place looks: dark hair, slim build, smart dresser; thatched roofed cottage; crowded shop shelves.

But it’s a one-dimensional image that results, isn’t it?

Let’s try that again. Dark hair, slim build, smart dresser. What if you add in the woody scent of her perfume (scent), the slight lisp as she speaks (sound), the hint of coffee in her kiss (taste),  the soft caress of her hair (touch).

Thatched-roof cottage. The sweet perfume of roses on the breeze (scent), the buzz of bees in the garden (sound), the sweet jam from the strawberry patch (taste),  the rose thorn catching unwary fingers.

Try it with those cottage garden flowers in my picture; how would you describe that to someone who couldn’t see it?

And those senses can be used to change the mood, too.

Thatched-roof cottage. The cloying perfume of roses in the still air (scent), flies banging relentlessly against the window (sound), the acrid taste of smoke in the air, the brambles strangling unwary legs.

See how rounder and fuller our experience is now?


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Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.