Description Part 3 – The Senses

Now to discuss the senses.  We human being have five of them: sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound.  Most of us are more visually based, so we often see things described that way.  That’s fine, but if we want to make our description rich and unique we need to remember to use the other senses.  More senses give us more chances to use specific details that can liven up the story and voice.

For example, at one point in Inkheart, Mo describes the moment when he read some characters out of a book and into the real world.

Her father looked at her.  “They came out,” he said.  “There they were, all of a sudden, standing in the doorway to the corridor outside the room, as if they’d just come in from outdoors.  There was a crackling noise when they turned to us–like someone slowly unfolding a piece of paper.

I’d like for you to note that last detail, the sound of the characters moving, “like someone slowly unfolding a piece of paper.”  Funke took a plain sound and a plain movement and combined them into an interesting description.  You don’t expect people to sound like paper when they move, but here we have characters coming out of a book not yet fully in our world.  Of course they sound like paper.  It makes for a much more satisfying description than just, “they turned and looked at us.”

So think about the other senses while you’re describing things.  Does the wind taste like dust?  Does the ground feel like Jello? Can the characters hear the cicadas in the trees or children laughing?  Do they choke on the sharp scent of vinegar?  All these sensory details build a world for your character to live in, and help the reader feel like they’re really there in the story.  They make the place real.

Referencing from Description by Monica Wood and Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

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