When you write a story, please use your senses.
Often writers just write about what they see and ignore their other four senses. In addition to your ability to see you also have your sense of smell, of hearing, of taste, and touch. Unfortunately, your senses are not as keen as a cat, but no one can have everything. I can hear better than humans, but you have thumbs.
A writer may describe a boat floating on water. They describe the color of the boat and what the water looks like. But the story is flat, like a pancake, or like a two- dimensional drawing of a boat, if the writer only uses their ability to see.
When I read a story about a boat, I want to be in the boat. I want to smell the ocean and hear the sound of the waves. I want to be in the scene as I read it, not sitting on the surface, emotionally detached. And if I am lucky, there will be a mouse in the boat.
Why You Should Use Your Senses When You Write
Your stories will seem more real when you involve your senses in your writing. The reader will be more emotionally involved with the characters if they can smell them. And if the reader can hear the wind blowing, and the ice crunching, they will feel the cold and not just read about it.
You could also try smelling and hearing like a cat to bring your story alive. Unfortunately for you, if you are a human and not a cat, my nose and my ears are more sensitive than yours. A cats sense of smell is fifteen times stronger than a humans. Which is why I like to have my litter box cleaned several times a day.
What Does Your Story Smell Like?
What does your story smell like? Is there a rotting fish on the shore? Can you smell the water? Is it salt water?
What sounds are in your story? Can you pivot your ears like a cat? One of my ears is bent. Yet, I can still hear my typist open my cat food tin in the kitchen when I am in the basement.
Are the waves making a sound as they touch the boat? Can you hear a mouse scratching inside the boat?
Here is an excerpt from my Memoir, The Cat Who Writes: A Tragic Tale of Loss and Redemption, where I use my senses in the writing. I dictate and Mrs. Hodges types.
An Example of Writing Using Your Senses from Pooh Hodges Memoir
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain crashed around our heads as we hid under the eaves of the wood pile beside the garage in the back alley.
“Pooh, you can’t say it was a dark and stormy night, that is the opening line from Paul Clifford, a 1830 novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, an English novelist.”
“The line can’t be that famous if I have never heard of it. And, it was a dark and story night. It was late at night when my story begins, so it was dark. It was raining and there was a lot of wind, so it was stormy.
Please don’t interrupt me again Mrs. Hodges. You are the typist and I am the writer.
Now, where was I?”
It was a dark and stormy night. The rain was coming down hard, each droplet felt like a small pebble was being dropped on my fur. We were wet. Very wet. My sister and I were huddled together, with my mother. Then a bright light came closer and closer and closer. I could feel my mother’s heart beating as we listened to the sound of a car door slamming and the sound of gravel crunching as someone walked towards us.
The smell of stale garlic was overwhelming as two big hands reached into the woodpile and …
Did you feel like you were there with me in the rain? Could you feel the rain on your fur? Or your skin? Mrs. Hodges and I need to work on my memoir. I tend to take too many naps, and she can’t type my story if I don’t take the time to dictate it to her. The warmth of the sun from a sunbeam on my fur is so hard to resist.
Do you have to use all 5 senses in a story?
No, you don’t have to use all five senses in your story. Decide what aspect of your story you want to emphasis and use the senses that focuses on that aspect of your story. My favorite senses are my nose and my ears. I can smell and hear a mouse even if I can’t see it in the grass.
What senses do you use when you’re writing a story? Please tell me, I would love to know.
Take a scene from your work in progress and add smell and sound to it. Or create a new story where you smell and hear like a cat to bring your story alive.
Practice for fifteen minutes. When you’re finished, post your story in the comments section. And if you post, please be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers.
I am excited to read your stories. Maybe there will be a mouse for me.