When you write your story, how much detail do you provide? Is it the correct detail, too much, too little?
I’m always fighting to get the small, but important, things right. When I read, I’m interested in the setting. Not only the “where”, but also how the “where” feels. I want to be there, see the place through the character’s eyes. When I re-read writing that I loved, that kept me involved in the character, I see that the writer used the senses to pull me in.
How can you do that? Some people suggest that you think of yourself as a camera and see what the camera would see. Others say simply pretend that you’re standing in your character’s shoes. What do you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel?
Adding sensory details brings readers directly into the story, giving them the ability to laugh, cry or scream with frustration right along with the characters. They’ll be salivating to find out what happens next.
As a writer, I tend to get the story down and then edit, edit, edit. I focus on details like the senses in later edits. So, when I started to write about this topic, I decided to challenge myself to come up with a short scene utilizing my character’s senses.
In the warm kitchen, Sarah blinks against the bright sunlight pouring in through the side window and fans herself. Turning her head, she notices an open drawer. JoAnne must have stepped out for a minute.
Sarah walks over and leans her hands on the center island to wait. I love this pattern, she thinks. The earthy tones would look great in my kitchen. As she focuses her attention on the design, she tilts her head. What is that droning noise and where is JoAnne?
Her gaze falls on a yellow plate that has two lonely pieces of bread. She’s making a sandwich now? It’s nearly 3:00. Sarah straightens up, looks around, and sees a frying pan on the stove with a congealed yellowish lump. That egg has been there for a while.
“JoAnne?” Her voice sharpens and she calls one more time.
The unrelenting background hum is driving her crazy. She shakes her head in an attempt to dislodge the sound. What is that?
She turns toward the noise and notices shards of a yellow coffee cup on the floor. What’s going on here, and what is that smell?
She starts over to pick up the broken cup, tilts her head up to sniff the air, and stumbles.
Annoyed, she looks down. A bright red stain weaves its way through JoAnne’s terracotta floor.
“Oh, no,” she says as she stumbles over her friend’s body. JoAnne lay on her side with her back against the island.
Sarah drops to her knees and lands in a sticky crimson patch. She pulls on JoAnne’s arm as the heavy stench of blood clogs her throat and makes her stomach twist.
“JoAnne, wake up.” A scream rips from Sarah’s throat and she pulls back.
Holding her hand over her mouth, she staggers to the open door and barely manages to get outside before she loses it on a nearby Rhododendron.
I tried to put in sensory details that would heighten the mounting tension. Did I do it? Perhaps. Or, maybe some of you intrepid writers could help me out. Maybe you could add in details that would make the selection better.
I’d love your comments or ideas.
Remember, keep writing!