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: http://www.moniquedevere.blogspot.co.uk/
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?