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Friday, October 5, 2012

All Eight Senses?

We are taught in F2K that there are actually eight senses: sight, taste, smell, hearing, touch, space, time, and the unknown.  Lesson 2 in F2K is all about the senses.  We learn how to "show" the senses, rather than naming and "telling" them.  What does this mean?

If I say "I saw the boat on the water," it's easy to understand, but "yawn", so boring!  That is telling.  It's the way we are taught to write in grammar school.

Now, if I take the same sentence and "show" it: "The sails billowed in the gentle breezes as the sailboat skipped over the waves toward the open sea," it is much more visual and more interesting.  Which sentence do you prefer to read?  This is the kind of sentence we teach in F2K.  More description, without actually naming the senses involved.

You can show more than one sense in a sentence.  The sentence "I saw the boat on the water," does not evoke any senses except sight.  The showing sentence, however, evokes both sight and possibly smell and touch.  We smell the sea, we feel the wind on our skin.  Much more interesting, the second sentence is preferable to read.

Ok, so what about those three extra senses?  Where do they come in?  If  you are standing on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, you are going to have a huge feeling of space.  A sentence about a clock ticking, for example, would evoke a sense of time passing.  And a good mystery or thriller novel, will definitely bring out that sense of the unknown.  How we write these sentences and stories will affect our readers interest level immensely.

I love to read books and stories that "show".  I want to feel the hair stand up on the back of my neck as I read a thriller with a feeling of suspense and the unknown.  I want a description of satin sheets to make me "feel" the smoothness and slipperiness of those sheets.  And I want to read about puppies with that softness and puppy smell that goes along with baby dogs.

As writers, we must grow up from those baby steps we took in our writing.  We must stop telling with those simple but boring sentences.  We need to expand our horizons, and the horizons of our readers and write descriptions that will bring out all eight of our senses.

We must show our readers what we are seeing, feeling, tasting and all the other senses in our writing.  

Happy writing!

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