Wednesday, April 26, 2023

The Writer’s Adventure of Using Sensory Perception Part 2

by DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Sensory perception sends an invitation for the reader to, “Come join my story adventure!” The writer uses action, dialogue, and figurative language—metaphors and similes—to show seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touch, and even intuition for the reader to identify with the character. The reader’s expectations are met by associating specific language and memory to invoke emotion. Experiencing the scene through the senses pulls in the energy of credibility, but only if the writer uses relational and understandable language that emerges from the real inner character.

Last month, we dived into sight, sound, and smell. Let’s continue!

Touch invites intimacy more than any of the other senses.

Young children want to touch everything. They determine characteristics about the external world according to how their brains translate pleasant, painful, or non-exciting stimulation. 

Texture is important not only to children but adults. Do you have a favorite pair of jeans? A soft T-shirt? What about a scratchy sweater?

The touch of someone we love is soothing, comforting, and a sensation we look forward to. But if that person or another physically hurts us, our memories store the information for the future.

Consider the parent who disciplines a child with a time-out. When the parent retrieves the child to talk about the inappropriate behavior and to reinforce his/her love, he/she touches the child, both emotionally and physically. 

Another trait of touch is the distance between the character and who is touching them. We can be touched by a passionate speech in a room full of people or a one-on-one with the speaker, and we are touched verbally, mentally, physically, or a combination. 

“A person can be stimulated by what they see, hear, taste, or smell, but when a person is touched, the sensation invites intimacy.” Rebecca McClanahan

We think of taste as sweet, sour, salty, bitter, spicy, and the list continues. As stated above, smell is linked to taste—apple pie, savory steak, freshly brewed coffee, bacon and eggs, and more. Memory also plays a vital role—Thanksgiving with roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce offers an emotional link to special events and holidays, especially when expectations are met with those we love. However, unpleasant memories . . . you get the picture.

Taste and its partner smell can usher in unpleasant memories. As a child, I attended a family reunion where hot dogs, corn-on-the-cob, and watermelon filled my plate. On the four-hour drive home, I got sick. To this day, I have difficulty smelling those foods and refuse to eat them. Another note is the fearful sensation (memory) that results when invited to a family reunion or picnic.

Imagine a feast of pizza for a team of high school football players before the big game. What usually stands for enthusiasm and a commitment to win can change drastically if the players fall ill to food poisoning. The smell of pizza can provoke a lingering repulsive memory.

Celebrations with exquisitely prepared food partners taste with memory and hope for the event to occur again.

Sixth Sense
The sixth sense is a perception beyond the basic five senses, one that can’t be seen, heard, smelled, touched, or tasted. The sensation is intuitive, a gut feeling without proof. Most of us have felt a sixth sense, and the strange sensation accompanying it. We’re not sure if the awareness is reliable, false, or a gift. Our characters experience the same undeniable perception.

Using sensory perception to enhance emotion helps our reader retain the story. The writer uses the proven methods to show and not tell the story. The scenes that incorporate these engine-additives often increase the likelihood of the reader purchasing our next book and the next. 

How are you using touch, taste, and the sixth sense in your writing? 


Don't Miss the Other Post in this Series!

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. 

She is the former director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Marketing Retreat, and Mountainside Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson. Connect here: