Tag Archive - Senses

How Fiction Writers Can Use Sensory Detail to Set Mood

Vivid sensory detail is what brings stories to life. Sadly, many writers ignore sensory detail, for the most part. They’ll show a few things the POV character sees, and, on rare occasion, might note what the character hears or smells.

If you want to write compelling fiction that transports readers into your story, you need to maximize bits of sensory detail for the best effect.

That doesn’t mean you cram full every paragraph with smells and sounds and textures. What it does mean is to strategically put in details that not only enhance the mood of the character but are things your character would actually notice.

Staying in deep POV is essential. When writers drop in sensory details that wouldn’t be on the character’s radar, that’s author intrusion. But the greater travesty is leaving out what a character would obviously notice.

Here’s an example: a character walks into a diner and sits at a table. She picks up a menu and sips cold water from a glass, waiting to order. The author fails to show us the smells that hit her when she walks in, the sounds of people talking and eating (silverware clattering against plates, etc.), the feel of the air and the lighting (temperature, humidity), the feel of the wet, cold glass in her hand, the coolness of the water going down her throat.

Yes, you can go overboard with sensory details, but your character is a physical body in the world, and she perceives through her senses. Continue Reading…

The Nuances of Deep POV – Part 3

Deep POV is all about readers experiencing sensory details through a character.

Writers know they need sensory details in their books. But here’s what a lot of writers do. They have a scene start off showing a character somewhere, and we get what feels like a laundry list of visuals to show the place he’s in—if even that much.

Maybe he’ll hear something—but it won’t tell us anything useful, like the sound of the clock ticking by the bed (do clocks tick anymore?).

We need to be aware of two key things: what the POV character is feeling and experiencing in that moment and what genre you’re writing in. The first concern determines what your character will notice and react to and how. The second concern speaks to the way you, the writer, should present these details—the writing style, the amount of detail, the tone, and everything related to genre.

Much to most people’s surprise, we have more than twenty senses that the brain combines and interprets to form a map of reality. Yet, so many writers fail to include even the five general senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. They rely almost exclusively on visual descriptions, with the occasional sound or smell as an afterthought. Continue Reading…