The senses are a wonderful thing that help us interact with the world around us — it is easy to relay some of them in writing … what we see and hear. However some are just a bit more challenging yet when we capture that image the writing is that much more vibrant.
I love Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” TV series. There is one episode when Kayley eats a fresh strawberry and the look on her face when she eats that strawberry is almost indecent. Here is a woman who has lived on a space ship and eaten protein rations for who knows how long and all of a sudden she is handed a small wooden box of fresh strawberries. The viewer can tell by the look on her face that she is enjoying the complete experience … she opens the box and looks longingly at the berries, she smells the strawberry holding it carefully by the stem, she places the whole berry in her mouth and closes her eyes. This is a woman set on having a full experience!
I think of my works in progress and think – are my characters as intent of having a full experience? I think not and I also am believing that needs to change!
Well, TV is obviously very different and you can do a close up on a face and watch her eat and enjoy a strawberry but I have to think that I am not as complete in the use of all the senses in my writing.
My characters like coffee and often drink it — but I have yet to go into infinite detail on the smell or texture of it. Does coffee in its liquid form have texture? Other than smooth? I suppose we could go into temperature or if there were grounds present on the bottom … lukewarm coffee isn’t quite as enjoyable as hot coffee or iced coffee …
I talk about the food created by the aunt of one of my characters … Aunt Charlaine’s left-overs can be great bargaining tools in my work in progress … but at this precise moment, I do not know if I ever go into rapturous description of the blending of seasonings and the al dante texture of pasta. I just make sure the reader knows that people will do grand and dangerous things for access to Aunt Charlaine’s cooking.
I myself am a visual learner — so I like to describe things as if for television. This sofa is here by the window, that table is there by the door — a set description of sorts. I also listen to audio books a great deal so I think of what I like to hear when listening to the book: accents, education levels of characters, and descriptions of scenes so that I can create images in my head. Smell and taste seem to fall way behind in my idea of what is important … though I am often reminded on the writer’s email list serve that cordite is no longer in gun powder … hmmm, I wonder what that smelled like??