I saw an article the other day that suggested rewriting your scenes as though your characters were deaf, and then again as though they were blind. This exercise will help you to use the other senses you don’t necessarily use in writing as often, such as touch, taste, and feel, to give your descriptions more texture.
I thought about this, and about how I could apply it to my current projects. In one I’m working on, my character can see and hear things no one else can hear. How much richer would her experience be if she could also taste, touch, and feel these things? I have some of that, to an extent, particularly smell, but also a little feeling, but it’s more her reaction to what she’s sensing, like getting goosebumps.
Instead of just getting goosebumps because she’s freaked out, what if the air actually did get colder? Instead of just smelling things, what if she could feel them and taste them?
It’s definitely food for thought to put into my own work.
Another project involves a person who is out of their own timeline. I got the inspiration for this when I read a friend’s story (don’t get me wrong, the story was good and I love my friend’s writing) that involved a character who was immortal but had spent the last four-hundred years cut off from the world. He managed to figure out what was going on in the world around him by watching a few hours of TV.
So, despite that I liked the story, I couldn’t quite get into it the way I would’ve liked because his experience was too easy. So I began to think what it would be like to be transported out of your own time/world and land somewhere else. How would you describe the things around you that are entirely new?
I’ve been trying to see through my character’s eyes, and describe things the way she’d see them. How do I describe a car when I have no word for “car” or “vehicle” or any type of reference point? What would chocolate or lasagna or soda taste like to someone who’d never had processed food? How do I describe the world around through my character’s eyes and make it obvious to the reader what they’re seeing while still staying in character and not using words that my character wouldn’t know?
And, even more importantly, how do I convey the terror of being misplaced, the shock of a new world, the alien-like qualities of the people and things that we take for granted like TV or central air, the homesickness and horror of being in that sort of situation, and not knowing if you’d ever be able to get home?
These are just a few of the challenges I find myself facing as I move on from Dragons and plunge into some other projects.
What about you? What are you working on, and how can you use your five senses to describe your world more fully?