Road Trip Wednesday - The Five Senses

It's Road Trip Wednesday time over at YA Highway and today they want to know how we make use of the five senses in our writing.

...Some of my characters have sixth and seventh senses, but I won't spoil it for you ;)

The five senses are the best way to world build.  Nothing brings your writing to life like delving in with all the human senses.

I sit down and very consciously put in references to senses other than sight and sound.  One of my English teachers told us the way to really bring something to life was to talk about the smells of a place or a person and how things feel, such as rain on the skin or the feel of hot sand underfoot. 

Sight isn't enough.  If my character is in a city, just telling the reader what can be seen lacks depth and therefore realism. I'll talk about the noise of traffic and the smells and sensations of other people knocking into my character.

The one I probably use the least is taste, but that's because my characters don't spend much time eating.  Clearly, they don't have enough cupcakes in their lives.  However, when they do eat, I will use sense references so the readers can get an idea of the taste and texture, especially because my characters eat some very odd things!


  1. I often kind of neglect taste too, but it's definitely one of the most fun senses for me to write about, especially if "research" is involved. :)

  2. I firmly believe that no one can ever have enough cupcakes in their lives.

  3. You're so right -- sometimes we just don't put in passages with eating, so we don't get to have our characters experience good food (like cupcakes!) :D

  4. I use taste the least, too--which makes no sense, considering how much I love food. I should work on amping up that sense in my WIP.

  5. Katy: I'm a really picky eater, which is probably why I don't use it much ^^;

    Crystal: So very, very true.

    Yahong: Eating tends to get in the way of the story, so my poor characters rarely stop for a meal.

    Rebecca B: I should too, but I'm very particular with the food I will and will not eat.

  6. Glad I'm not the only one who neglects "taste."

    Another thing I thought about that helps me - reading stories that evoke all my senses.

    Great post!

  7. Taste does get neglected, though it doesn't have to be about food. The taste of lip gloss during a kiss, the taste of saltwater air, the taste of dirt when your face is pressed to the ground . . . I have to admit, though, that the food tastes are the best. ;)

  8. Taste crops up a lot in my book since there are a lot of food descriptions, but my MC also tastes bile and vomit a lot. Disgusting, I know, but it's in context, really!

  9. Count me in with the rest of the writers who neglect taste. Like yours, my characters don't spend that much time eating. I do love when books use taste well, though it usually ends in me craving the food the character's eating.

  10. Haha, I used to love it when my teacher would tell us to use all five senses, and kids in my class would run off and put the five senses into EVERY. PARAGRAPH.

    And I agree with forgetting taste. My characters don't often eat, but one of them has never eaten real food on a regular basis, so when she's given a feast, I really pay attention to it.

  11. I'm interested in the strange things your characters eat. And I kinda got a bit stuck on the cupcake... nearly morning tea time here. I too struggle with taste. So much to think about.

  12. Everyone needs more cupcakes in their lives, and that is a fact. ;)

  13. Great post! I always try to incorporate all the senses in my writing. It really makes things jump off the page. I love to read stories that do the same.

    Really wanna read about your characters with the 6th and 7th senses. :)

  14. Alison: Reading is such a great way to find other ways of using all the senses in your own work.

    Kristin: Thank you for such great examples!

    Angelica: Your poor MC!

    Tracey: I know! Or if the character's eating something I know I don't like, I just get hungry anyway ^^;

    Francesca: I'm sure your teacher scored them for enthusiasm ;) And I like the idea of paying attention when it matters.

    Beck: Ooh, morning teatime is definitely cupcake time! Hmmm, well, let's just say as I'm writing speculative, I've had to make a few unusual things up. And seeing as I'm such a picky eater, it's actually quite easy to dream up things I'd hate to have to eat!

    Michelle: If a politician ran on that slogan, they'd get my vote.

    Nicole: Thank you! Let's hope one day you'll get to read about my characters and their wacky adventures :D


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