How To Use The Five Senses In Writing

shutterstock © An images of dogs to illustrate the five senses

We know the five senses the human body uses to receive information – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. But how can you incorporate each into a story, helping bring your writing alive?


Probably the easiest sense to write about. The writer will highlight what the character sees, whether the character is walking down the street or when inside a building. It’s OK to draw attention to the cracks in the pavement. But it might be significant to show how the cracks mirror the (fractured) paths in the character’s life.


I love the sound of rain. I find it strangely calming – especially if I don’t have to go outside. As a sense, sound can work particularly well in setting a scene. It will help create an ambience as to what unfolds. If your character is lost in a forest, the slightest sound might make them on edge. Whereas a walk on the beach, with the sound of the waves lapping against the shore, will create an altogether different mood.


This is an easier sense to write than you think. Back to the aforementioned beach, what smells do you think will permeate the air? Chances are it’s the smell of the saltwater and the seaweed lining the shore. We can all recall the smell of certain things in life, whether it’s a good or unpleasant experience. When writing about different smells, the writer is simply recounting them on the page.


The same applies to taste. I love the taste of strawberry jam, but I wouldn’t thank you for a drink with ginger in it. So, bringing taste to life on the page is very much character dependent – how the taste, real or imaginary, gives a greater understanding to a character’s feelings.


How do characters react when they touch something, or when someone touches them? Working in an office, paper cuts are quite common – but they can certainly sting. Again, it comes back to feelings. If your character is having a bad day, something as “trivial” as a paper cut might intensify the situation. Call me an old fool, but there is nothing more romantic than holding hands with your loved one – the reassurance it can give you. And when it’s not there – the longing for its return.

The next time you write, let your character’s experiences come to life on the page through use of the five senses.

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Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.