Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I’ve been working on sensory descriptions in my WIP, so yes. A post on that subject.

The five senses are part of any story. (Technically there are more than five, like estimating how much time has passed is actually the real “sixth sense”, but we don’t want to get too complicated.) A world can’t be fully built unless the character is able to sense every part of it, from the smell of a grill to the color of the sunset.

1. Sight.
Sight is the easiest, obviously. Describing a person or a place is pretty much lesson one of writing. It’s important to make the descriptions vivid, so the reader can “see” it correctly, not necessarily by going into excessive detail, but by using a few strong words carefully.

2. Sound.
Sound is easy to describe, but also easy to forget about. Wherever a character is, there’s not nothing going on around him/her. Maybe it’s the approach of a pursuer, or maybe it’s just the rush of air over their eardrums as they’re panting for breath. Sound can even be used to emphasize boredom. They hear a television on in the distance, or someone walking upstairs as they sit in a waiting room.

3. Touch.
What are you touching right now? A computer/laptop. A chair. Your clothes, I really hope. The point is, it happens a lot. It’s also a good way for a character to judge something and then communicate those feelings to the reader. For example, they see what looks like a child’s toy ball on the ground but when they pick it up, they find it’s too heavy and smooth like metal. BOOM. It’s not a toy, it’s something else.

4. Smell.
Smell is one of the more forgotten senses. Truthfully, it can’t always tell as much as a simple glance will. But smell is the most evocative sense we have, so using it to show that food has gone bad or that someone splashed on too much cologne rather than washed is pretty powerful. Also gross. You can also do it with nice smelling things.

5. Taste.
I would say taste is the least used of the senses in terms of writing. It’s rare that a use pops up for it outside of a few mentions of what the characters are eating. Still, it should pop up at (appropriate) times to fully round out the world of the book.

See? Five senses. They’re used to describe everything and keep the reader involved with the story. It sounds so much simpler than it actually is.


  1. I was just watching something on the History Channel about the sewer systems and the development of the flush toilet. Let's just say I don't want to think about smells right now.

  2. Great post. I love your snark.

  3. I tend to forget the senses, except sight, of course. Thanks for the reminder! Great post :)

  4. I use taste in a minimal way in my MS- having my characters talking over dinner, for instance. The others get more use.

  5. I will keep this in mind the next time i write a poem, thanks:)
    Clenia Gigi


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