Incorporating the Five Senses in Your Writing

I’m a foodie. The anticipation and joy in my heart that I experience while waiting for a restaurant entrée or homemade dinner is ridiculous. When the steaming plate is finally placed before me, I’m blissful. It is a feast for the senses.

If you want to engage a reader into your written world, you must incorporate sensory data, so their imaginations will ignite. Sense memory is one of the quickest ways to transport an audience into your novel. When describing the plate of Mexican food above, I could say that it looked good…but what does “good” look like? “The enchiladas were covered with melted cheese and spicy ranchero sauce,” immediately transports you south of the border.

Let’s go further, using all five senses: sight, smell, sound, taste and touch.

 

The combo plate included four enchiladas and a taco.

The combination enchilada plate at Carmelita’s was generous enough to feed four hungry lumberjacks.

The food smelled good.

As the server set the fragrant offering before me, the chile relleno’s spicy aroma tickled my nose.

 I heard music playing.

The mariachi band’s salsa tune was accented by the syncopated rhythm of the electronic cash register.

I ate my dinner.

My mouth discovered the creamy center of the queso blanco and spinach enchilada, while a hint of nutmeg in the béchamel sauce intrigued my tongue.

I grabbed my plate.

The stoneware platter was sizzling hot; I placed my blistered finger on the icy margarita glass.

 

Adding sensory details to a piece of prose imparts multidimensional imagery that readers crave. Jessica Bell, author of Show & Tell in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions from Telling to Showing, says that her writing changed when she added concreteness. “My writing had become cinematic, it had movement, my characters were three dimensional and I didn’t even have to mention their personality traits because I was showing them. But above all, my writing evoked emotion.”

 “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”–Anton Chekhov

 

Sources: WordServe Water Cooler, WritersDigest.com, novel-writing-help.com, writingcenterunderground.wordpress.com.

Comments

  1. Awesome points and excellent examples!

  2. Thanks, Sam! Of course, I use food for examples. It comes naturally!

  3. Okay, I’m hungry now!
    You are right, it’s the use of all those sensory details that really pull us into a good story!

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