Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Touch, Taste, and Smell

You've heard it before, write using all five senses. I don't know about you, but I find it very easy to write what my characters see and hear. What I sometimes forget is touch, taste, and smell. Those senses add flavor to the book. They make a scene come alive and give it depth.

So let's concentrate on the senses that get left behind: touch, taste and smell. I'm going to share a secret that helps me write these senses into my story. Here it is . . . I make lists. And you thought it would be more difficult, but it really isn't. These lists become my own personal reference that come in very handy while I'm caught up in writing a book. Break your lists into three main categories: touch, taste, and smell.

Touch . . .
When writing scenes using touch try thinking of texture. Is the surface smooth, sharp, ragged, coarse, pitted, ruffled, powdery, foamy, hairy, crumbly, rubbery, oily, soapy, and etc. Write a touch list using textures and surfaces. 

Taste . . .
For this list, write across the top of the page different tastes: bitter, sweet, sour, tart, salty, and anything else that comes to mind. Now, below each word list all things that have that taste. For example, under bitter write gooseberries, chokecherries, and etc. For sour write lemons. Do the same for the other tasty words.  

Smell . . .
Yet another list. This one may take some doing because some smells can't be described with one word. For instance: smelly sock, or rotten egg, or moldy bread. Did you notice that with each description an image came to mind? Don't forget the pleasant smells: fresh cotton, buttered popcorn, baking cinnamon rolls, simmering pizza sauce, baby powder, and etc. You may want to group good smells together and bad smells together. That will make the description easier to find when you need it.

Now let's see if I can use all the senses in a paragraph:

I heard the squeak of orthopedic shoes on tile as the wild-haired nurse dressed in green scrubs walked into my hospital room. Her face puckered as though she'd sucked on a lemon for breakfast. As she neared my bedside, a whiff of fresh cotton followed her. She rubbed my arm. Her warm, smooth touch calmed me.

Okay, I know you can do better than that. Give it a try. I'd love to read what you can write using your lists for taste, touch, and smell.


  1. Great post! I hae a hard time with putting taste in my writing. My characters don't seem to eat much. HMMMM...

  2. Sharon,
    I know what you mean. Taste and smell seem to be the ones I neglect while I'm roughing out my story. Thanks heavens for editing. :)

  3. Oh taste is always such a hard one! I heard that smell and taste are very closely linked, so I figure if I've got smell covered, I can let taste go most of the time.

  4. Oh hey that reminds me, did a post a week or two ago about the eleven different senses! YES REALLY! Most of them aren't ones you'd use much in writing, but she gave some great examples.

  5. Margo,
    Eleven senses? I've got to check that out. Thanks for the heads up. :)

  6. Wonderful post, Kathi! Thank for all of these tips. I've never thought about writing with all of the senses, but it's really something we need to do in order to feel the story, isn't it?

  7. Julie,
    Thanks. Believe me, I understand how easy it is to forget some of the senses while writing. Making a list has helped me many times. :)

  8. On my last edit, I check to see whether I've included things for the reader to hear, smell and taste. It doesn't always come naturally to me, which is why it's the last thing I check.

  9. J.L.,
    I hear you! I do the same thing. I'm grateful for computers, which makes it so easy to go in and add. Imagine what it was like for writers who used typewriters. Glad I live when I do. :)



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