Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sensory Details

I'm still working on the revision suggestions I learned in Darcy Pattison's Revision Retreat Weekend last month. I've spent the past several days making sure my manuscript has plenty of sensory details to bring the story to life. My goal is to engage at least three senses in every chapter. I've been going through my manuscript chapter by chapter and recording which senses I've included on the spreadsheet that I talked about in my previous post (another great use for spreadsheet plotting!)

I've learned a lot by doing this. I was pleasantly surprised by how many sensory details I've already included. However, these details were mostly visual and auditory. I really need to pay more attention to taste, smell, and feel. By including three senses in each chapter, I've had to stretch out of my norm and look for these extra details I don't normally think about. It's been a great exercise that I think will benefit all my future writing, hopefully making me pay more attention to these details up front, rather than waiting for the revision stage.

How about you? Does using sensory details come naturally to you, or is it something you have to pay special attention to? Which senses are you most likely to include?

30 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It's something I had to learn to do beyond seeing and hearing. Taste is still challenging, but I've finally nailed smelling and touching.

Anne Gallagher said...

After writing awhile, it seems to come naturally. It seems my characters always "smell" the outside "taste" (food) inside, and hear things in the middle of the night. Touching and seeing are usually givens.

Trisha said...

This is a great thing to be thinking about when revising. I need to keep this in mind in my next revisions. :) I like your method of trying to include at least 3 in each chapter.

Laura Marcella said...

My first draft isn't so good with sensory details. Thank goodness for revisions!

Brian said...

That is so interesting and easily overlooked! I sure have learned along tagging along on your journey!

Rose Munevar said...

It's something I have to work on as well. Great post! I like how you share these tips for improving :)

Old Kitty said...

Oooh I like the idea of going through each chapter to see if at least three senses are engaged!! Thanks for a great writerly tip, Susan!! I have a feeling I tend to engage the sight more! Oh dear!

Take care
x

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

It's exciting to see your ms come together! Whatever gets you there!

I sometimes overuse sensory details, actually. I'm much more a shower than teller, and I've had to learn how to scale it back to keep it from getting overwhelming. Better to find some happy medium, I think.

Good luck with the rest of your revision!

Jai Joshi said...

I always try to analyse things from the five different senses. Smell and taste are particularly powerful. When opportunity calls for it, I utilise the extra sense too, that wonderful sixth sense. But that's rare that I get to do that.

I find that details are the making of any kind of sense description. Things like hot/cold, weight, texture, pressure, friction. Things like that bring to life any description.

Jai

Kittie Howard said...

Thanks for inspiring me to take another, deeper look. I'm adding more of the senses to my MS now. Taste is the hard one for me.

Kelly Polark said...

I love your revision tips while I'm in the revision stage! You give me so many great ideas!

Jemi Fraser said...

Great idea! I'm not great about including unique sensory details either - I like the idea of 3/chapter -may have to steal that! :)

Jenna Blake Morris said...

I've never thought about going through and checking for a certain number of sensory details, but I'm definitely adding it to my checklist now. Thanks for pointing this out!

New follower!

Lynda R Young said...

Using sensory details really forces me to get into the story I'm writing. As a conseqence the writing is far better.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

All the sensory descriptions come naturally to me--except for taste. I get stuck every time.

Sight, sound, and smell are the ones I use the most.

Lydia Kang said...

Half the time, they come naturally, and the other half, I must try harder. It's a mix for me!

Jennifer Shirk said...

I WISH it came naturally but I usually miss one of them. When I edit I then pay close attention to fill in what I missed.

Robyn Campbell said...

Oh man. Sensory details are so important! I usually leave them out in first draft. Then I go in and start adding. Great tip about including three senses in every chapter, Susan! I will remember. :-)

Medeia Sharif said...

I also tend to go for visual and auditory. I also need to pay more attention to the other senses.

Deniz Bevan said...

I don't really smell anything in real life, so I always forget that my characters might be smelling stuff!

Jackee said...

It's hard to be so in the story you taste, see, feel, and hear all at the same time without bogging your pacing down, but I know highlighting the right sensory at the right moment makes the world of difference. I was just thinking how in Collin's Cathing Fire Katniss swims to her dead friend and rather than reiterating the grotesque slit in Wiress' throat, she talks about trying not to taste her friend's blood in the water. Much more jarring for the reader to think of not tasting your friend's blood! Those are the kinds of details that stick with you...

Thanks for sharing! I can't wait to see what else you have learned from the retreat. Hugs!

Nas said...

Great post! While editing, I pay particular attention to all the sensory details in a manuscript!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

That is a great idea...I do it with shorter things, but I hadn't really thought about it on my novel. Good thing I read this while doing revisions. :) Thanks for a great post!

Marcia said...

This is why food is so great in books. All five senses. :)

Carolyn V said...

I always put my sensory details in during my second revisions. They take me forever to get down!

Clara said...

Thanks for this tip Susan, I must try it too. My MS is filled with auditory and visual but not nearly enough of the others. And I'm going to a writing seminar this weekend, so right on time! : )

nutschell said...

taste, smell and feel do get set aside often. I've been using smell a lot in my current YA, though:)
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Sensory details can and often do come naturally, but I subtract many of them and add new details as I revise. They can make a huge difference in the writing, I think.

nutschell said...

Sensory description is something I've become more aware of since writing my YA. Certainly adds more to the story!
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Carol Riggs said...

Hey, 3 senses in each chapter. That's a good goal! I like that. :) Great way to make the experience real.