As authors, we are constantly striving to find ways to write in a way that our readers experience our story as vividly as we do. In our minds we see the bright colors of our character's homes, feel their annoyance about a particular situation, and even smell the meals the share. The challenge we face is putting those experiences into words so others can share them with us.
One way to truly flush out these details is to write with your five senses. Touch, sound, taste, smell, and sight can immensely improve the details of you narrative by focusing on each one of them individually and look at their impact on your writing.
What do your characters feel? Let's say there is a moment in your story where it's raining. How does that change things? Think of some ways to describe what that feels like to be caught in the rain. Wet. Heavy. Damp. Soaked. Weighed down. Unable to see because your eyes are blotted with water droplets. Now, take it a step further and see if the narrative itself can be added to. Did anyone forget an umbrella or a coat? Do they go back for it? Who do they meet on the way if they do? What conversations do they have?
What do they hear? The simplest place to start here to ask where they are. What sorts of sounds would they hear? If your characters are in a crowd, is there a dull roar or a stunning silence? Does something startle them? Sound can also bring more dialogue into your story by simply focusing on the conversations between people. Now, this doesn't just have to be between your characters, but can also include something they overhear. If they are at a train station and a woman at the newsstand mentions that she 'can't believe her train is late again', does that affect your main characters? Which train? Is it their's? Do they ask about it?
Taste may seem like a difficult one to use, especially if your characters aren't at a meal in your moment in the story. However, taste has more to offer your writing than just food. If your story takes place by the ocean, does the air taste salty? Does experiencing a fire leave your characters with a gritty, smoky taste in their mouth? Imagine the texture of sawdust in a carpenter's shop. All of these details can bring a rich layer to your narrative.
Much like taste, smell isn't just about food. If your narrative takes place during the Summer, what sorts of smell fill the air in a month like July? Yes, there are things like hot dogs, but what about sunblock? Bug spray? Freshly cut grass? If a character is at home, is a neighbor cutting their lawn, and what does that do to your story? The sweet smell of newly cut grass may draw them out of their front door and lead to a conversation with the person pushing the lawnmower. What do they talk about, and where does that take your story?
Sight seem like the easiest, but it still requires the same amount of attention. Yes, it sounds as simple as 'what do they see', but take it further. Instead of simply stating that a car drove by, think about what the character really saw. Was the car expensive or simple? Did it seem in good condition or was it a rusted pile of junk? How fast was it going? What color was it? Now, using all of those details, how does your character respond to it? They would probably react very differently to a cherry red sports car in perfect condition driven way too fast by a gorgeous blonde than they would a rusty pickup truck rattling through their neighborhood with a bearded man in denim overalls and no shirt behind the wheel. How does that affect what is happening in your story?
Now go write something amazing. I can't wait to read it.
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