Making Sense of Our Senses – Touch, Smell and Taste

To fully immerse our audience in the worlds and settings we craft for them in our self-published novels, it’s important to let readers engage all their senses. A while ago we talked about sight and sound, today we’ll discuss touch, smell, and taste.

Touch

Our heroes often find themselves in unusual situations. After all, the whole point of us creating these adventures is to help our readers escape reality. This often means they are touching or coming into physical contact with unusual or repellent objects, things that our readers have probably always tried to avoid touching.

A great way to enhance your description of touch is to focus on the physical reaction it evokes. Your hero’s skin might crawl or become covered in goose bumps; they might faint or feel ill.

The use of adjectives will also help you with your descriptions of touch.

Smell

Smell and taste (below) are probably the hardest senses to represent in our writing. The first thing to do is to decide what feeling you want to create in your readers.

Smell links us to our past. Use its associations to help describe the conditions under which a scene is taking place. A bad smell in a horror story usually forebodes a gruesome occurrence. The smell of smoke is an indicator of danger.

BlindfoldHere are a few smell words you can use to tap into your readers’ emotional triggers:

• Acrid
• Fetid
• Aromatic
• Fragrant
• Pungent

Taste

Try and associate taste with textures. Think about various flavors and see if you can come up with a texture to represent it. This will help our readers appreciate exotic, alien, or repulsive flavors they have never experienced before.

Here are the classifications of taste along with a few words and textures they might be paired with:

• Bitter: tart / vinegary
• Salty: briny / brackish
• Sour: tart / acerbic
• Sweet: saccharine / syrupy
• Savory: aromatic / wholesome
• Metallic: bloody / rusty

Bringing all Five Together (and Adding More!)

Skilled writers will be able to combine all five of these senses to really bring their story to life. The rule of thumb is: the longer your description, the more senses you should engage. You can even try to incorporate other sensations, such as our kinesthetic sense and our balance (our kinesthetic sense is the awareness of our body and the position of our body parts, and our balance relates to our physical stability). These are good senses to tap during fight scenes.

– WBP –

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books are invited to do so by sending a message through the WestBow Press Facebook page and follow the WestBow Press Twitter account @WestBowPress. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar, punctuation, and length. 


Creative Exercises to Keep You Going

Whitney Eklof is currently an offline marketing specialist for Author Solutions, the world leader in supported self-publishing. She has a master’s degree in telecommunications from Indiana University, focusing specifically on storytelling across a range of mediums and story world creation.  While at IU, she also served as an associate instructor, educating students about writing, storytelling, and other telecommunications-related subjects, and worked as a writer for Indiana University’s Media Team.

Creativity can be hard to come by. Some days we’re just worn out, or we feel we’ve exhausted our creative juices. Writing, an inherently creative process, is no different. There are days we’re just dog-gone out of the dose of creativity we need to keep pushing our story forward. However, we don’t have to languish in our creative void – there are a whole host of creative exercises we can try to get our writing juices flowing again. Below are just a few suggestions, from the obvious to the obscure.

The obvious

Free write: You are probably familiar with this technique. Simply set aside what you’re working on and write. Write whatever comes to mind; write in full on stream-of-consciousness. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar mistakes or that the paragraphs don’t flow together. Just write. Free what’s in your heart and mind and put it on a page – you never know where it’ll take you.

writing-1209121_960_720Read: We are often inspired by others. In fact, that may be the reason you started writing in the first place. Maybe you read a story that sucked you in completely and charged you up to write something of your own. Take some time to go back to those roots. Read something you really enjoy; even better if it’s in the same genre you’re writing in. See how someone else spins a sentence or brings a character to life. Let someone else inspire you instead of trying to will creativity into existence.

Utilize writing prompts: There are hundreds of books and websites full of writing prompts. Whether or not they relate to your book’s subject-matter, taking on a prompt can let your mind roam free. Don’t be afraid to embrace a genre you don’t normally write in either! Writing prompts give you just enough direction to send you down the path to creativity.

The not so obvious

Exercise: When we think about trying to jog our writing creativity, we often focus on writing-related exercises (the obvious ones mentioned above), but exercises unrelated to writing can also help us find the creativity we need to finish that next chapter. In comes the most straightforward exercise of all: exercise. It gets your heart pumping, gets you out of that hunched-over-your-laptop position, and just flat-out increases creativity. Scientific study even supports it!

Meditate: Mindfulness meditation has exploded in popularity over recent years. Mindfulness is about slowing down, taking in your surroundings (and your body), and simply being. It’s a practice about being present, and not letting the distractions of life in. The process of mindfulness can boost creativity as it helps us focus and frees us from worry or tangential rabbit holes.

The obscure

Play: That’s right, play. Sit down with your children, nieces, nephews, pets, or even by yourself and play. Free your mind from stress and worries and just imagine yourself as a princess, a powerful wizard, or simply be your dog’s favorite ball thrower. Play not only incorporates exercise; it helps expand our thinking in new directions. Instead of thinking linearly all the time, we open ourselves to more lateral thinking and associations. You might be surprised at how creative kids can be, they may end up providing the inspiration you needed. Beyond that, play is simply important, whether you’re a kid or an adult.

Restrict yourself: This one probably seems counter-intuitive. You probably imagine creativity is a product of freedom, and sometimes that’s true. However, there is power in restricting yourself, as the story behind the creation of Dr. Seuss’ classic, “Green Eggs and Ham,” demonstrates. By reigning in your boundaries, you’re forcing your brain to work within confines it may not be used to – giving it a new challenge and forcing you outside of your comfort zone.

Creativity is something we can find in the most unexpected of places, and it’s something essential to writing – no matter if we’re writing a sci-fi saga or a how-to helper. When our creativity wanes, it can bring our writing to a halt, but it doesn’t have to spell the end of our story. There are thousands of creative exercises out there and the ones listed here are but a few. So, please, take some of the ideas listed above and give them a whirl, or share some of your own creative exercises to help a fellow writer out of their creative void.

Write on, fellow writers!

– WBP –

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books are invited to do so by sending a message through the WestBow Press Facebook page and follow the WestBow Press Twitter account @WestBowPress. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar, punctuation, and length. 


Are you a “Pantser” or are you a “Plotter?”

Whitney Eklof is currently an offline marketing specialist for Author Solutions, the world leader in supported self-publishing. She has a master’s degree in telecommunications from Indiana University, focusing specifically on storytelling across a range of mediums and story world creation.  While at IU, she also served as an associate instructor, educating students about writing, storytelling, and other telecommunications-related subjects, and worked as a writer for Indiana University’s Media Team. 

What kind of writer are you?

When we talk about our writing, we often refer to the genre we write or the themes we explore. However, we rarely talk about what kind of writer we are. In comes the concept of “Pantsers” and “Plotters.”

Like the name suggests, a Pantser is someone who writes by the seat of their pants. They go forth and let the words flow without planning or overarching structure already in place.

Then there are the Plotters. As you might guess, a Plotter is someone who sits down to write after carefully plotting the trajectory of their story. They have a structure in place and their writing is about getting from one piece of that structure to the next.

As writers, we generally fall in one of three categories: Pantser, Plotter, or the combination of the two known as the “Plantser.”

Now, it might be easy to categorize yourself as a Plantser off the bat because you feel you do a little of both, and that may be true. But take a moment to stop and really think about your writing process. You might just find that you tend to lean more heavily toward one side, or even that you’re a full-on Pantser or Plotter. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s simply your process. But, as with most things in life, there are pros and cons to each side.

Pantsers

Pros: Pantsers have more flexibility and freedom. They can go wherever the story takes them, which can be great for discovering new directions to take your book in. They’re not tied to a particular outline so they can scrap something that’s not working without having to redo the entire structure.

Cons: Of course, having no structure and no clear direction can lead to those dreaded cases of writer’s block, or even worse, it could lead to entire story derailment. Pantsers often run into more plot holes and logic problems because of the more freewheeling form.

Plotters

Pros: With a solid idea of where the book is going, Plotters can more easily get from Point A to Point B or chapter to chapter. The writing process also tends to move more quickly and smoothly when you know where you’re going.

Cons: Having everything planned out can be confining and Plotters may miss out on the opportunity to see where the story takes them. It also means that if they want to change something, they may have to rethink their entire structure.

Plantser-a combination

There are certainly writers who fall into each of these categories without ever experiencing any of the cons. They are the lucky few. For the rest of us, becoming a Plantser can bring us the best of both worlds. Having a light outline or at least a general idea of what you want to cover in each chapter is certainly helpful, but taking time to simply write and see where the story or characters lead is also equally as powerful.

Where to go from here?

Whichever category you fall into, consider changing up your process and try being a Pantser or Plotter for a day. Even if you consider yourself a little of both – a Plantser – you probably tend to use one process more than the other or may simply be in a place where you’ve become one more so than the other lately.

As writers, we all need to take time away from our work: time to re-energize, regroup, or just to relax away from writing. Be sure to also take some time to try out a different process.

If you’re more of a Pantser, sit down and outline your next chapter and see how the process can give you clearer direction. If you’re a Plotter, take one of the concepts you believe needs more development and just write; don’t plan, just go. When you mix things up, you’ll find that change often leads to increased creativity and helps refresh you and your spirit.

So whether you’re a Pantser, Plotter, or somewhere in-between, don’t be afraid to switch things up once in awhile and embrace the other side. After all, you know what they say … “The grass is always greener.”

Write on, fellow writers.

– WBP –

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books are invited to do so by sending a message through the WestBow Press Facebook page and follow the WestBow Press Twitter account @WestBowPress. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar, punctuation, and length. 


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