Textured words

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Sight. Sound. Smell. Taste. Touch. The five senses. We’re supposed to touch each one in our scenes as writers to stir our readers and connect them to the world we are building. Most of us do a good job bringing one or two into a scene. How do you go about capturing all five?

Here’s a little trick I learned a few years ago when writing a scene. I jot down the setting for my scene then list anything and everything I can think of that I would encounter in that situation. Let’s say I’m at the airport baggage claim carousel. Close your eyes and visualize. Some things are obvious – other passengers, luggage on the carousel going round and round, the silver luggage carts being pushed by a harried porter. But that’s all visual.

Start to fill in the other senses. The other passengers – would someone have a crying baby? Or would there be shouts of joy at someone’s reunion? The dull honking of the carousel horn to tell you it’s coming around. The clack of the suitcases as they bang against the metal barriers. The loudspeaker announcing the arrival of the downtown bus. What about luggage? Squeaky wheels. (Sounds)

Or maybe someone runs over your toe or bangs your shin with their oversized suitcase. Or maybe it’s winter and a blast of cold air rushes in on the coattails of each passenger as they hurry outside and you rub the goosebumps as they pebble over your skin. (Touch)

Is there a whiff of cigarette smoke from the automatic doors as the whoosh open and close? The exhaust from the cars as they idle outside to pick up passengers. (Smell)

Do you take the last swig of the flat soda you’ve been carrying around since your delayed connection in Boise. Perhaps you finally toss the piece of gum you chewed in the hopes it would relieve the pressure in your ears during the bumpy landing. (Taste)

I’ll sometimes write my scene first then edit in the details. I find it’s easier to use these little tidbits as I edit. I almost always end up with more than I can use but at least I have a plethora of options to choose from. And whatever is left goes in the “SAVED” folder for another story, another time.

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