My First YA Highway RTW Post!
The topic this week: “The Five Senses. How you use them in your writing, how you are inspired by them, pictorial essays, that character with smelly socks, books that have used them well, the ones that are currently missing from your work, etc.”
I have a two-part answer for your reading pleasure.
First: incorporating the senses into your writing helps give a reader become immersed in the world of your story. That lovely feeling you get when you’re reading and your dog barks next to you and you nearly have an aneurism because you forgot you even have a dog because the protag in the book doesn’t have a dog. (Don’t you just love that feeling?) That’s what you want your readers to experience. But senses can do even more than flesh out the world. Which leads me to…
Second: The other night I read through my notes from my last residency for school. One of the topics my professor touched on was setting and using it as a tool. So, setting = sensory information. (See what I did there?) Bart (the incomparable Marlin Barton–check him out!) suggested this: use what a character notices around him (by any of the five senses!) to reflect how he’s feeling or to reflect the tension in a scene. So, if your character is having an argument with his mother, he could notice how a mosquito keeps buzzing in his ear and it’s really, really annoying! Or, let’s say your protag just learned her mother died (what’s my hang-up with moms today?) and she’s at the park. She could hear a whipporwill call and reflect how sad its song is. What your characters notice externally–what they sense–can illuminate what they’re feeling.
It can also add to suspense. A novel that does this brilliantly is Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I recently re-read the book and I was amazed at how well she added to the suspense just by the lonely sound of the distant beach or the too-bright blood-red rhododendrons outside the window. I highly recommend you give it a read!
So, next time you’re engrossed in your scene, think: how can I include various sensory details to engross my reader as well; and: how can I have that sensory information perform two jobs (texture and characterization).