Adding Depth to Your Scenes: It’s all in the Sensory Details by Monique DeVere

Have you ever wondered why you can picture a scene so clearly in your imagination, yet often it doesn’t translate onto the page as clearly as you envisioned? Does this sound familiar? “It was so much more vivid in my head, why can’t I get it to be the same on paper?”

I’ll tell you why. As writers, we imagine our scenes/sequels in specifics; we then relay what we SEE to our readers. Sight is the first sensory element we use to convey our pictures. Often new writers stop there. They are so focused on making the reader see what they see they forget to deepen the scenes with additional sensory detail. In our mind’s eye, the scenes are vivid because our imagination automatically fills in all the particulars needed to let us experience the imagery.

I call scenes without at least one or two other sensory details half-scenes. Yes, I know you’ve written the beginning, middle, and end of the scene, therefore the scene must be complete. If you haven’t made good use of all of your character’s human senses, your scene will be missing a few vital ingredients.

I see scenes and sequels as a collection of moments. Every moment in your story should consist of sensory elements. We’ve dealt with sight and this is the most used one—the easy one.

What about TOUCH? The sense of touch isn’t only what your character touches with his/her hand that matters, things touching them works too. Even something as simple as a cool evening breeze brushing your POV character’s skin, or the sensation of sun warming it can really bring a moment to life. You add a few little touches (pardon the pun) like that, and your readers will tell you your writing is vivid.

Don’t stop there, we have a few other senses we can use to add life to our scenes. TASTE, for instance, can be appetizing or aversive. Don’t be afraid to show your reader the disgusting as well as the yummy stuff. This will draw the reader in and let her experience what your character is tasting almost as if she was there.

The same goes for SMELL. The nose is a sensitive organ and when used within a scene it can be an effective tool. Scents can trigger memories—good or bad. They can also create a more vivid picture. You don’t need to go into great spiels of description for each sense, a short evocative sentence would do just fine. Here is an example from my latest rom-com release Let’s Pretend.

The putrid scent of stale booze and partly digested curry permeated the air.

I don’t need to tell the reader anything else at this point since it is likely the reader has smelled stale booze and curry before. I’m sure not many have regurgitated it! However, I think it’s safe to say most people have thrown up and have a pretty good idea of the way stale booze and partly digested curry might smell. So you see? It only takes a dash of sensory detail to bring your scenes to life.

The sense of HEARING. Now this is one that can have you jumping out of your socks with fear, or rolling on the floor laughing at a good joke. You can use sound to communicate, set mood—relaxed or scary. Soft Sax jazz in the evening can be relaxing. A sudden loud bang can trigger fright. The sound of a steady heartbeat beneath your ear can lure you to sleep. Nails scratching a blackboard can set your nerves on edge.

Then there’s the INTERNAL SENSES. What your character FEELS, his/her INTUITION—that gut feeling about something, whether right or wrong. What she/he THINKS.

So the next time you imagine your scenes/sequels try to envision what else your character must be hearing, touching—what might be touching them, thinking, feeling, sensing, tasting, smelling as well as seeing. And don’t forget to depict your character’s reactions to these sensory responses.


Thank you for hosting me, Alicia. It’s been a pleasure hanging out with you.

The pleasure was mine, Monique. Wonderful post! This is something I often overlook myself, thank you for reminding me to be more aware of adding sensory details.
Monique is giving away two autographed copies of Let’s Pretend to two lucky readers, so please leave a comment below, with an email addy where she can contact you, for a chance to win your copy of this romantic comedy.

You can read the first chapters of both Let’s Pretend and More Than a Playboy FREE on my blog:

Let's Pretend

Blurb: LET’S PRETEND by Monique DeVere

True love needs no pretence

When A&E trauma surgeon, Dr. Isobel Murphy, married sexy Irish firefighter, Lucas Delaney, she knew it was going to be forever. Unfortunately, she didn’t realise forever would only last five short years.

Keeping her failed marriage from her family seems like a piece of cake, until her grandmother calls a family gathering and Belle suspects she’s about to announce a critical illness. Making excuses for Luc’s absence, she flies home to Connecticut. Then delicious Lucas arrives for the three-day get-together and Belle knows things are going to get dicey. Especially since he still has the power to make her heart miss a beat, and her stomach bottom out.

When Belle asks him to pretend they’re still deeply in love, Luc doesn’t have a problem. He sees an opportunity to reclaim the love of his life. And he goes all out to remind Belle how it used to be between them, before long work hours and clashing schedules invaded their marriage. What he needs to know though, is, once the pretence is over, will Belle be applying for her decree absolute? Or will they be renewing wedding vows?

Let’s Pretend Purchase Links:
More Than a Playboy
More Than a Playboy Purchase Links:


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54 responses to “Adding Depth to Your Scenes: It’s all in the Sensory Details by Monique DeVere

  1. I seek out the sensory detail. Scent creates lasting memories and instantly can take me someplace, same with music. Great post.

    Linda Joyce


  2. moniquedevere

    Hi, Linda,

    Thank you for leaving a comment. Scents are very evocative. And music is the fruit of love :D.

    You didn’t leave me your email addy for a chance to win an autographed digital copy of Let’s Pretend 🙂


  3. Love it, Monique. One of my read-throughs before I send a book to my editor is all about making sure I’ve include sensory descriptions. Best wishes to you!
    -R.T. Wolfe


  4. Tricia Tyler

    Thanks for the reminder, Monique. I find I add smells and sometimes forget the sounds. I think I am going to steel from R.T. and start making it one of my read though checks. Best of luck wtih ‘Let’s Pretend’!


  5. I love description, but I’m in such a minority these days. Now the telling detail has to be a sentence here and there. Using the senses is also a way to deepen characterization. A firefighter might notice different things than a doctor would. Thanks for the reminders!


  6. Tina Evans

    Thanks for the tips Monique! So helpful and informative. My favorite senses to work on are touch and scent.


  7. What a great post, Monique. Such great examples and advice. If I feel a scene is lacking, chances are its in sensory details. Another thing to check for during revisions. Good wishes to you!


  8. Thanks, RT,

    That’s a good idea. I tend to work in scenes and have a mini checklist as I go.


  9. Great advice. It’s so important to draw the reader into your scene.


  10. Nice post Monique. That’s what grabs me as a reader. I want an immersion of my senses when i read.


  11. So true about the senses creating a fuller, richer experience by adding depth to a scene. Let’s Pretend sounds like a great read!

    karyngood @ gmail . com


  12. VERY good post, Monique, and really helpful. I sometimes forget to add more than one sensory detail when I’m writing and appreciate your reminding me that I should always do this. Thanks.


  13. Oops, my email address should be:

    karyngoodauthor @ gmail . com


  14. Roxy Boroughs

    Nicely done, Monique.


  15. janninegallant

    Great post. I think scent is especially evocative. I just have to remember to go back and add those oh so important details!


  16. Great advice. Thank you. There again, I also have elements on my ‘edit/cut’ list – seemed, felt, thought. So hard to get the balance right.


  17. Great post, Monique. I love playing with scents and touch because they’re so potent but all senses matter and finding the balance is important


  18. gkparker

    I’m always harping to my critique groups that scenes are bland without senses. I have a theory about people ignoring smell. We’ve tried to create a world with no bad smells. We’re supposed to spray our homes with pleasant smells. People move to the country and complain about the smells. Our breath must always be sweet, our body must never smell, some people shower twice a day lest any trace of their own smell be detectable. What we don’t realize is we are eliminating our natural pheromones that we’ve involved to tell us things about the other person.

    I could go on but in the end you’re right Monique. All the sense should be considered while writing. It’s something that could be added during revision when you can think about the scene in more depth.


  19. great post. luckily i have my critique partner to keep reminding me about using all the senses as i tend to be a dialogue-overload writer. 😉
    but each year i get a little better…


  20. Great Article! Thanks for the reminder to use several senses in a scene, Monique. Your phrase, half-scenes, tells it all. Let’s Pretend, sounds delightful! It’s been added to my ‘must read’ list!


  21. Oops, forgot to add my email addess: 🙂


  22. mfbuscher

    Great post. Since I’m such a visual person, I tend to neglect the other senses at times and take care of it during revisions.


  23. the rough draft may have only a few sensory details. But in the layering edit, I pay close attention to adding in the taste, touch, smell and sound details. I agree that without several sensory details a scene seems half-written. Great post.


  24. My, haven’t we been busy around here. Great to see all the comments. It is a wonderful post! Thanks, Monique.


  25. I have a tendency to depict the visual, so I use a checklist to remember the other senses. Very nice post although the next time I read one of your blogs, I’ll wait until after dinner. Stale beer & curry. Blech. Love your titles and covers.


  26. This all goes into what I call my layering edits, Monique. My drafts are often devoid of much of these elements as I try to simply get the story out of my head and onto the monitor. Thanks for a great reminder post.


    • I admire writers who can simply focus on rough drafting the story! Such an amazing ability. I’m an awful perfectionist and can’t move on until all my boxes are checked. The couple of times I tried rough drafting, I forgot to add so many elements it was a nightmare to fix! I guess we all write differently, but I would love to get the story down on paper as fast as pos then go back and fix!

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂


  27. Nice job on the post. Even seasoned writers sometimes forget to add that extra depth 🙂 It’s an important part of the rewrite process. And since I write screenplays as well as novels, I always start visually, and must make myself add the extra texture. Thanks for reminding us with great examples.


  28. Nikki Weston

    Hi Monique,

    uh-oh, I am so guilty of using sight alone, and thinking a scene is done 😉 For me, this is simply a by-product of my trying to write fast or keep to a wordcount, but of course, the story and the reader suffers. I love the senses of touch and hearing, especially when another character is speaking and the listener gets a particular tone from that speaker. Their perception of same ‘speaks’ (sorry!) volumes!

    Great post Monique, keep up the excellent work!
    All the best – Nikki.


  29. Hi, Nikki,

    Thanks so much for the encouragement! 🙂

    Great pun 😀

    I think if we make it a natural part of the writing process it will become second nature and we’ll automatically add in senses without really thinking about it.


  30. Great post, Monique! I tend to use hearing a lot, so I must be highly auditory. Smell is the next sense I use. I have to remind myself to use other senses.


    • moniquedevere

      Hi, Edie,
      You might be right. I think we all have our favourite senses, words, phrases etc and always need to remind ourselves not to over use them. 🙂


  31. I’ve now chosen the two winners of an autographed copy of Let’s Pretend and will be contacting them shortly. Thank you everyone who left an email addy to be entered in the draw! 🙂


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