Wednesday, August 3, 2011

RTW: More Than Lumps of Wood or Clay

Welcome to our 90th Road Trip Wednesday!

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link -- or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments.

This Week's Topic:
The Five Senses. How you use them in your writing, how you are inspired by them, pictorial essays, that character with smelly socks, books that have used them well, the ones that are currently missing from your work, etc.

I've always been told that I'm a visual person, and when I was younger I thought that meant I was visible and I secretly wondered what the Other people, the ones who weren't visual, looked like.

These days I know that refers to how I perceive the world around me and also how I learn new things. I like pictures, I'm better at faces than names, I love drawing but I have to have a picture to draw from, and when I write, I tend to describe things as they look rather than how they feel, smell, sound, or the rarest of all, taste. There are some things that are better off not tasted.

When I go back over my writing, I always have to remain conscious of the fact that even though I may be able to imagine what I've written perfectly, people who read it might not come away with the same idea. So, I have to go back and add in all those details that I "forgot" at the start. Yes, it may be somewhat tedious to me, but once I'm done, the effect is more well-rounded and even me--the visual person--can sense the difference.

It's a long way down, when we climb too high.
It's amazing when you're reading how the senses don't even come to mind, the story just flows and details click into some hidden places in your mind without any conscious effort on your part. Without realizing it, you've just fallen from a tree, the crushing branches and rough bark banging you up, the air suddenly thick with fear, your skin slippery and hands too weak to grab hold of something, anything to break your descent, and then with a "whoompf!" you hit the ground below. You know exactly how the character felt, each bump, each scrape, and the impact, so jarring, almost seems to knock your own breath loose from your lungs. Magic.

It's a magic that tinges the written word and colors our favorite books in shades of color that no eye can see. It's on a level beyond our cognition. The senses are there but we don't really see them unless we look and peer past our own ability to sew the fabric of our reality.

What senses are we using right now? Touch. Sight. I'm eating cantaloupe, so taste is certainly a factor for me.

Our entire lives are just a series of senses strung together to form our memories, our days, our nights, our presents, and our futures. We would be merely lumps of wood or clay without them, I should think.


  1. It's true. You can't lick everything.

  2. Exactly what I tell my dog. Alas, she never listens.

  3. Sarah's comment cracked me up! I remember the taste of cantaloupe, but I can't eat it any longer (makes my mouth and throat hurt). I've ended up putting in lots of food I lust after in my books.

  4. Sarah, hilarious comment.

    I'm horrible at writing taste, not because it's difficult to do (I think describing sounds is harder) but because I never think to use it unless my characters are eating--which they hardly ever do. I end up adding it all back in during a later draft.

  5. Totally agree. I once had a teacher who said 10% of the writer's job is thinking up the story, and the other 90% is writing it so that everyone else can imagine it how he can.

  6. ROFL @ Sarah.

    Also, now I want cantaloupe.

  7. Haha, Sarah!

    I love your memory of thinking visual meant visible. My son is seven and at times interprets things I say so literally. It made me think of him.

    Awesome post, btw. I tend to do my most "sense"-ical work during revisions.


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