Kate Allan

The online diary of Kate Allan, author

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Writing with the senses - 1

On 15th August I gave my 'Six Senses of Writing' workshop to Watford Writers. About 20 writers of all abilities hunkered around the small tables in the colourful Cha Cha Cha Cafe which is in it's own early 20th century building on the edge of a green-lawned park. I'm still up for giving the workshop to some more writing groups but I'd like to share the highlights from the workshop here online.

Today let's start with:

What are the six senses, and why use them in your writing?

As a writer you are communicating, using words, to your reader. These words are flat, usually in black ink, on a flat, usually white page. Your reader will take what they read on the page and imagine the story. You need to give them the cues to stimulate their imaginations and this can be done by making sure you write using senses.

These are five senses which we will talk about first:


Most people are naturally visual or aural. You’ll see by looking at your own writing which senses you include naturally. As your readers will all be different and may not sense the world as you do it makes sense to include all the senses in your writing so there is something there for every reader.

Smell and taste can seem the least obvious to use, but with practice it will come. For example:

Her nose wrinkled at the pungent smell - beer, tobacco and goose fat. (Smell)

Ben pecked his mother on the cheek and tasted the familiar, chalky powder. (Taste)
(From ‘Perfidy and Perfection’ by Kate Allan)

When you combine two or more senses in a short passage the effect will be very powerful. Here’s two examples:

She was dismayed to see a new puddle of water had appeared even since yesterday. She looked up at the dark timbers and then down again at the puddle, and heard the rhythmic splash of the drips. (Sight and sound)

She sat down on the bed, held the hem of the counterpane in her hands, closed her eyes. Breathed the scent of home, the faint teaser of lavender from the sprigs she placed in her drawers, the lingering jasmine perfume, a present from her mother’s sister when she had been in England two years ago from India. (Touch and smell)
(From ‘Perfidy and Perfection’ by Kate Allan)

Using the senses in your writing brings your created world alive for your readers.

Tomorrow: the sixth sense, and why you must use it.


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