Sorry for the brief delay with this post–had some deadlines to meet! Let’s continue discussing how to add sensory details to everything we write, bringing our stories and even nonfiction pieces alive. Last time I talk about sight and sound. Today, let’s look at touch, taste, and smell.
Touch--Being able to describe with your writing how something feels adds an extra dimension to your story. As with sound, we don’t always think about all the textures in our environment. But when we take the time to consider what’s around us then find the perfect word to describe it, we can successfully bring our readers into the story so they can experience it for themselves.
Think about some of the textures immediately around you right now: the grain of a wooden desk, the smoothness of a glass window, the fuzziness of carpet fibers, and so forth. Consider using descriptive words like gritty, mushy, or jagged in your writing to bring out an exact sense of what you want your reader to feel. Don’t forget to use similes, metaphors, and analogies as well to compare the object you want your reader to experience to something that will trigger an immediate response because of its familiarity or precise picture it paints. An example is saying that “The rain felt like icicles piercing your skin.” Much more descriptive than telling you the rain was cold!
Taste–Sometimes we need to get a little creative when trying to insert taste images into our writing. What we’re writing about may not always provide the perfect set-up to describe how something tastes. For this sensory detail, you definitely need to think beyond the obvious food and drink tastes. For example, the air near a beach can taste salty. Falling on a football field may cause you to taste the grimy soil!
Looking for creative places to add taste sensory detail is well worth it. Most people have a fairly strong sense of taste. And, taste is one of those things that engraves itself into our memory. So, sprinkling familiar taste sensations throughout your writing is a great way to engage your reader. Remember too that taste and smell go hand in hand. So, sometimes, you can offer a sensory detail for taste simply by describing how something smells then mentioning how that smell effects the sense of taste. For instance, if you’re describing freshly baked chocolate chip cookies in terms of smell, you can add how the smell alone makes your mouth water thinking about the gooey chocolate melting on your tongue. Here, I didn’t specifically talk about taste but implied it through smell and texture.
Smell–Much like taste, scents tend to stick in our minds for years and years. Think about a certain perfume or cologne an old girlfriend or boyfriend wore, the way your grandmother’s kitchen always smelled, or how your newly born baby smelled. Smells have a way of lingering. Capitalize on this in your writing to bring readers into your story by helping them recount scents from their past. I guarantee if you write about how your grandma’s kitchen smelled, your readers will begin to drift back to their own grandmother’s kitchen. This is exactly what you want, because now they are making connections from your story to their own lives, thus investing themselves in your story.
Adding sensory detail in the area of smell can immediately pull a reader into a scene or help bring a character to life. Smells can create a warm, cozy environment ( bread baking, smoke from a fireplace, cinnamon cider, etc) or one you’d want to run from (the smell of a hobo or an inner city alley). Using the sense of smell is a great way to evoke the specific emotion you want to elicit from your reader.
After you’ve added the five senses into your writing, go back through your manuscript and highlight each instance of sensory detail. Use different colored highlighters for each sense, which allows you to see which ones you’ve perhaps overused or, worse, which ones you haven’t used at all! It’s a great way to get an immediate visual of how well your use of sensory detail is balanced throughout your story.
If you have any other tips for how to make sure you’re adding enough sensory detail to your writing, or any ideas for how to creatively insert the senses, please leave a comment to help others.