As I am putting the final touches on my novel, I find myself checking for detail beyond just the grammar, punctuation and comma slip-ups. I check for my use of the five senses and make sure that they’re historically/regionally accurate. I know that it might seem like one of the basics of writing, but using the senses correctly can add a depth of flavor to your story beyond just a good plot. It’s where the plot becomes a story and the picture in you have created in your reader’s imagination becomes alive.
Seeing. When the heroine hops off the train/stagecoach/boat, she immediately takes in the terrain: hills, no hills, grass, dessert, well-kept buildings or a city in disrepair.
Or, when she sees her hero/antagonist for the first time she notices: hair color, eyes, height, build etc.
Touching. For me, I feel that I use this one the most. (Hehe see what I did there?) Touching can convey emotion and how a person responds to being touched can convey their true feelings about another character. A touch to the elbow could result in pleasant surprise or a shiver of fear.
Or, the elements could effect her when she comes in contact with them: dust clinging to her damp skin, the rain soaking through her dress, the snow seeping through her thin soles, the humidity of New Orleans’ air making her hair frizz for the first time etc.
The next three are the ones that I have to really concentrate to add: hearing, smelling and tasting.
Hearing. When she steps off the train, what sounds does she hear? Horses, dogs, laughter or loud talking? Is there a lack of sound? If so, does she make noise as she disembarks, drawing eyes to her? How do people talk? What’s their dialect like? What special phrases are only known for that particular region?
Smelling. Getting off a train, I doubt there would be the scent of roses lingering in the air. She would probably smell horses, the stench of sweat or maybe the fresh air invigorates her after being trapped in a train filled with dusty, dirty passengers with an addiction to too much aftershave or perfume.
Tasting. You can use their facial expressions here or lack thereof to gauge their reactions. This is where you can, again, get in touch with the region.
For example, if you hero/heroine was from New Orleans, give them some gumbo. Or, if your hero/heroine is an outsider, gumbo may look like a bowl of mud, but it tastes like a bowl from heaven. Amen. Crawfish is another fun one. First, there’s the shucking for the crawfish meat and then there’s the sucking the crawfish head for flavor, which may cause people to shiver, but that’s where all the good juice lingers! Or fried shrimp heads, a recently discovered favorite of my family. How could I live in Louisiana and never have tasted such amazingness as fried shrimp heads until now?? Shameful.
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