Today we are going to do an exercise to help bring more sensory texture to your writing. Isabella is a character in my WIP. Before being adopted, she spent her early childhood homeless. The world around was not always pleasant. She would close her eyes to experience all the beauty beyond sight. In adulthood she would capture pleasant memories the same way.
Here’s what Isabella did
She would store in her mind the smells of flowers, food cooking or fragrant perfume. The feel of a leather seat or prickly wool blanket. The silkiness of a dolls hair or the slimey feel of a worm between her fingers. The air caressing her cheek or a blustery cold day or the sun’s intense burn on her skin as the sand trickled between her toes on the beach.
What to do
Choose a place. Any place really. The park, your favorite easy chair, the mall or the public library. Close your eyes and experience the place. Relax and absorb the moment. Open your eyes and write down your sensory observations.
I tried it
I walk the dog a few times a day around the yard. Today I stood with my eyes closed. The Chickadees, Cardinals and Robins chattered incessantly. Squirrels barked. A neighbor’s dog whined for attention. The wind rolled across my cheek (that’s how it felt—amazing) as it traveled to the trees nearby. My little dog snuffled loudly as his nose explored the ground. The leash grew taunt around my wrist and began pulling my arm behind me, stretching the muscles and forcing me to reposition my feet. My nose was assailed by the earthy scent of upcoming rain. Doggie damp fur and the ripe smell of his morning toilet take center stage with my eyes closed.
I also discovered
Did you know silence has a feel? At the library the lack of noise is soothing. It quiets the mind drawing it into the stillness. The other senses are magnified in the depth of the quiet. There I experienced murmurs of voices, muffled coughs and loud whispers of children. The flip and crinkle of magazine pages resonate in the silence. The shuffle of a chair against the floor carries on the wings of quiet to everyone in the room.
Taste buds can speak to us
Last night my son prepared a marinade for chicken that had a delayed kick. My taste buds had a fun time describing to my brain exactly what flavors they were experiencing. First sweet barbeque then a warming after taste, not too hot but lingering in my mouth.
Sight the overpowering sense
Sight is often the only sense mentioned in a novel’s first draft. It’s the description focus of a travel article. Even a witness at a crime scene tells what he saw. But there is so much more to bringing the real or imagined world around us to our readers.
You try it
Close your eyes and experience your setting. Note all the sounds, feels, smells. All sensations. Switch to another setting and try it again. Write down those sensations. Let your mind choose the creative words. I really did feel the wind roll over my cheek.
You might try this when you need more depth in your description of setting and character.
I’ve shared with you my responses to this experiment. Share yours with me in the comments. I can’t wait to learn from your experience more delicious details about the the world around us.
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