Writing with all your senses
Annie Bellet, K.C. Ball, Adrian Phoenix
· How to do it?
§ Pick one of the five senses that isn’t ordinarily used in writing, like taste or touch, and focus just on that sense. Do a 4-5 page writing experience.
§ Try to imagine having another sense. And write about it. Do it without referring to existing senses.
§ Flash fiction is a beautiful way to experiment with writing technique. Do a piece under 1,000 words in which I experiment with someone who only has one single, e.g. smell.
§ Use all five senses every two pages. Do it consciously. It takes what you as the writer see in your head, and communicates to the reader.
§ All sense is a character opinion: a chair feels differently depending on the character, e.g. too small, makes their back hurt, etc. Instead of saying the “air smells like coffee”, it could be “the irritating odor of coffee wouldn’t go away”.
· KB: What’s wonderful about that is that it doesn’t just establish the scene, but it tells you something about the character too.
§ Making the bridge between character and sense is probably the biggest difference between being rejected and making sales.
§ Unique way to use sense: the taste of bile in his throat. The tang of fear.
· Question: generic vs. specific
o AB: You need to be specific: exactly what is the color of the sky. Has the coffee been sitting on the burner too long?
· You have to dare, you have to go big. Don’t be timid.
· We want to draw people in, make them feel that it is real, but at the same time, we don’t want to pull people out of the story by being too clever with words. When they are done, the reader should be saying what a great story, not what a great writer.
· We have senses beyond the basic five:
o E.g. we can sense gravity, which way is up.
o We can sense where our limbs are, even when our eyes are closed.
o We can sense infrared, e.g. you can tell where the sun is with your eyes closed.
o You can tell compass direction by where the sun is.
· Q: Particular writers that demonstrate this well.
o AP: Stephen King
o AB: Stephen King short story: old man reminiscing about being a young boy and talking about the sense of time, how a summer would stretch on forever. He didn’t use a paragraph break for three pages: he mirrored in writing what was going on.
o KB: Stephen King is a master: he can take a very ordinary situation and turn it into a story. Tommy Knocker: he starts the chapter saying a character is going to die, then makes you fall in love, and praying he isn’t going to kill them, and then he does.
o James Lee Burke
o GRRM Game of Thrones
o Sand Kings
o With Morning Comes Mist Fall
o Joe Hill, Stephen King’s son, is amazing when it comes to playing on senses.
· Read writers who are widely read. Read out of your genre. Understand why people read them. Especially people with multiple books. Word of mouth and marketing may sell a first book, but it will never sell a second book unless the first is good.