03 November 2012

There are other senses?

How often do we write things and focus on things like what the character sees and hears?  Do we ever check the room’s smells?  Have you ever challenged a reader with the taste of something or the texture a character feels as they run their hand over something?

Because we live in a very visually oriented world, we frequently focus on the images the characters see.  Since sounds are frequently associated with images, it becomes an easy link to describe the sights and sounds of an event. 

But here’s the challenge.  What happens when those aren’t available?

Let me offer this thought to bring it into prospective.  Open up your imagination.  (Can’t close your eyes and read, huh?)

Okay, consider standing on the battlefield at Gettysburg, July 1863.  Gunshots are exploding around you and the air is filled with white smoke.  Your ability to see is limited to the length of your gun.  Hearing is lost.  In fact, your sense of taste is probably coated with the ash of burned gun powder. 

Where’s your scene?

Sure, you could dive into the character’s head, but if you're lost in that smoke cloud for a while, you’ll lose your reader because of all the introspection.  Could the character leave the battle?  Sure, but you’ve still lost the sense of hearing, because of the explosions so close to the character’s ear. 

Another thought.  What happens when a flash-bang grenade explodes near your character?  Blind and deaf for several moments.  Again, introspection might work for a couple sentences, but in text the blindness and deafness is an eternity if all you rely on is the auditory and visual cues.

I want to offer this challenge.  Pick a room in your house.  On a dark night, with no moon or stars, turn off all your lights and electronics.  Make the room completely dark.  Put in ear plugs so no one can help you.  Then navigate the room.  Let me know how you do in the comments.

Just remember as your writing your stories, we have five senses.  (In some cases, your characters may have six.)  Try to use them all to submerse the reader.

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