It's my goal with every new story I write to make it better than the last. Sure, I try to hit all the big topics--a great hook, no plot holes, deeper characters, etc. but with my new manuscript, I also have a goal to specifically address all those small things my novels are often missing - at least during the first draft.
So today I wanted to start with one of the simplest things I tend to miss in my manuscript. Senses. Yep, something so basic yet something I know I tend to skimp on when writing a story.
Using each of the senses throughout the story is a great and simple way to bring your story to life.
Uses/Examples - Colors, textures, patterns, movements, placement of objects or people in a room.
Application - Imagine your character walking into the setting (a home, somewhere outside or in public, etc.). Try to pick out the objects they (looking through the eyes of your character) would gravitate toward first. A picture on the wall, a polka-dot pillow, a fish jumping in the stream. It will probably be different depending on your character's gender or their characteristics (like whether they're more creative or analytical).
Uses/Examples - Backgroung noise/white noise (a fan humming, dishwasher churning), the noise a character is making (tapping nails on a tabletop, the stomp of feet while walking). Also, the common sounds of nature, traffic, animals, other people.
Application - Close your eyes, hear all the noises around you, commonplace noises and distinct ones. Now picture your character doing the same and apply what they would hear to the scene.
Uses/Examples - Flowers, foods, anything else in nature, cleaning products, etc. Not just good smells but negative smells, too.
Application - Ask yourself what the character would tend to notice. Flowery smells, pungent smells, perfumes, etc. and use them to not only enhance the scene but teach more about the character by showing how the smell affects them.
Uses/Examples - Textures, temperatures, potency, blandness.
Application - Use your own experiences about specific tastes and try to use strong descriptive words to capture those in your scene.
Uses/Examples - Textures, temperatures, pressure (hard, soft, light, rough).
Application - Again, be character sensitive and use descriptions of how the touch of something feels to the character and how it makes them feel inside as well.
So when you're applying these to your story, sight will obviously be there most frequently. Try to be unique and use strong adjectives. Not, the air was cold, but the air had bite or instead of a cool breeze, maybe a frigid wind. As far as frequency, I have heard of putting each of the senses on each page but on such senses as taste, that seems excessive. Try using the most common (sight) on every page and one or two additional senses on each page as well. Balance it per scene so you can incorporate at least one of the four less used senses per scene, and then decide whether or not you need more (if you have longer scenes).
For me, smell is the sense I'm always challenged with remembering to incorporate. What about you? What sense is the most challenging for you to remember, and what tricks do you use to incorporate the senses into your manuscript?
Also, next post I'll be continuing the What Is You Novel Missing? series with something a bit more complicated - deep POV.
*photos from flickr