Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Maven Jacqueline Barbour I had a devil of a time coming up with a blog topic for this week's theme, possibly because I always find it a struggle to incorporate the five senses in my work in creative and meaningful ways. It nearly always takes me several passes through a manuscript to get that aspect of it "right."

So, as I usually do when I'm running short of ideas, I hit up Google. My search for "five senses writing tips" yielded page after page of matches, but I thought it would be rather declasse of me to write a blog post that was just series of links to places you could have found through Google on your own.

One article I read did give me a glimmer of an idea, however. The author suggested doing writing exercises that focus on each of the five senses, one at a time, doing your best to ignore the others.

I'm not sure I'd want to go so far as to write in only one sense at a time, but the suggestion did make me remember that I have a book (still very much in the planning stages) with a blind heroine. Part of the reason the idea appealed to me from the moment I conceived it is the challenge involved in having to write only four of the five sense to convey that character's experiences.

It sounds hard, but I think it's possible. After all, radio dramatists have done it for decades. (And some of the funniest visuals I have in my head have come to me courtesy of Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion. His sound effects specialists are geniuses.)

Your Turn: If you could write a book or story using only f our senses, which four would they be? Is there one sense you find easier to write than the others? Or one you find particularly difficult?


Vicki said...

I had to think about this for a while. I guess if I was going to write a book with only 4 senses it would be: sight, touch, smell, and taste.

Hearing is probably my hardest to write. It's not that I don't use it but I probably use it less than the others.

Great theme this week. Now I'm off to read through the ms and check out my senses. :)

J Perry Stone said...

If its romance, you'd HAVE to have touch wouldn't you? Wow. Talk about your writing challenge: a virgin heroine who can't feel ... or perhaps this is a curse, Erica (ye authoress of the paranormal).

Interesting discussion, mavens.

I think about that James Herriot story about the chronically flatulating dog. He was the best dog in the world, but no one could stand being near him. And then Herriot found an old farmer with no sense of smell.

I certainly wouldn't suggest such a plot for a romance, per se, but to make the characters sense-compatible by giving them sense-deficits is an interesting plot device with endless possibilities.

-an insecure, plain heroine falls for the gorgeous hero, who eventually loses his sight and is forced to see her inner beauty (Florence Barclay's THE ROSARY, if you're interested).

It starts with automatic conflict only to be resolved through scraping one of the senses.

Kendra said...

Interesting idea. You might want to check out George Shuman's 18 SECONDS. It has a blind heroine who can see the last 18 seconds of a dead person's life through their eyes. It's a series; her second book came out this summer.

Also made me think of JR Ward's heros. One can't see and one has no sense of touch most of the time.

Hellie Sinclair said...

Hmm. I think I'd choose: taste, touch, smell, and hearing.

I can't lose the ability to shiver at the sound of Alan Rickman's voice. And it'd be a shame not to be able to smell cologne and clean skin together, or hayfields and sunwarmed skin... Obviously taste would be a big one. Maybe not as imperative as the first two...and touch is indispensable.

Sight can be a bit of a handicap. You tend to go for what looks good rather than looking below the surface to what is good.

Erica Ridley said...

One of my favorite Christina Dodd books has a blind heroine. It's called Candle in the Window, and IIRC, one of the first (if not *the* first) books she ever sold.

Bill Clark said...

Oh, dear...it's such a beautiful day here in Greenwtown that I don't even want to *think* about forgoing one of my senses. The air smells crisp and clean, the autumn leaves are beautiful, the birds are a-twitter, the keyboard caresses my fingertips, and that morning cup of coffee tasted wonderful!

To expand on Erica's theme today of three things to be grateful for, I'd like to list five...but you already know what they are!

Erica Ridley said...

Also, one of my all-time fave Mary Balogh's is Silent Melody, which features a deaf-mute heroine. (And a tortured hero--yum!)

lacey kaye said...

I got distracted by Vicki's comment. I feel like hearing would be one of the hardest to lose. I, too, loved Silent Melody. And of course, thanks to Helen Keller I know it's very hard to speak when you can't hear. But my original thought upon reading V's comment is that it would be hard to do a book without hearing just like it would be hard to do a book without sight -- so much is conveyed through those two senses as far as tone and comprehension go. Without a raised brow, a tilt of the lips, a whisper, a shout, so much of language is lost. Touch and smell are, to me, the first that can go. In fiction. In real life I will keep them all, thank you very much!

Darcy Burke said...

I've always hated that question: "what sense could you live without?" Uh, none! I was fairly blind for a long time and now enjoy 20/10 vision thanks to the glory of Lasik. Still, it was nowhere near true blindness, which I've always been deathly afraid of after watching that Little House on the Prairie episode where Mary wakes up blind. Yikes!!! I was afraid to go to sleep for weeks.

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Manuscript Mavens