What I Learned From 11 Senses–Who Knew? (RWA 2010 Blog Series)

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Marilyn Kelly gave this RWA Conference workshop on how to incorporate emotions into your writing.

We all know of the 5 common senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing.  Obviously we know that we must incorporate each of these five senses into our writing to make it come to life.  Entire workshops have been done based on these senses alone, so I want to focus on the other 6 senses Marilyn discussed.  Her main point is that all of these senses should be incorporated in your novel in order to give the reader a complete sensory experience.

  • Pain

Pain incorporates all of your other senses, something I never thought about, but it’s true.  Have you ever been hurt and had a bad taste in your mouth, or heard a roaring in your ears?  So when you’re writing pain, make sure you incorporate your other senses.

  • Balance

Your other senses add to discussion of balance, i.e. sight, hearing (imagine that sound you hear when you are spinning around in circles really fast).

  • Joint Motion and Acceleration

Our internal muscles are what control this.  Think going from walking to running.  What happens with your body when you do?

  • Sense of Time

The ability to perceive time is actually a really important thing for novels.  Readers like to have a sense of how much time has passed in the story.

  • Temperature Difference

Detection of heat or hold.  It’s not really touch, since you aren’t touching anything.  Readers really relate to heat and cold, so this is an important factor to add.

  • Direction

Ability to perceive direction and height.  For example, if you are writing a novel set high in the mountains, a sense of altitude should be incorporated into your writing to draw your reader further into the story.


[On a side note, Marilyn actually gave a lot of tips for decreasing pain, increasing balance, keeping joints healthy, etc.  So if you’re interested in that kind of stuff, you may want to check this workshop out.]

Personally, my novels do generally contain some of these sensory characteristics, such as characters facing pain, as well as recognition of temperature differences (that’s a big one for me actually; I’m always thinking about whether my characters are hot or cold).

So what do you think of Marilyn’s discussion of other senses to include in your novel?  Do you find that you generally incorporate one or more of these things in your writing? 

Join me on Monday, October 4th, for a discussion of RWA’s “No More Sagging Middles” Workshop.



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