Does anyone even stop and smell flowers anymore?


Have you ever gone on a hike and just reveled in everything that’s in nature? Smelled the trees and flowers, listened to the birds tweeting, feeling the fresh air on your face? Or have you ever been to the ocean and smelled the salty sea air, listened to children giggle while waves made that soothing sound? Do you like the feel of hot sand under your feet as you walk along the water’s edge?

Did any of these questions help bring you out on a nature walk or to the beach?

Sensory is very important for painting a picture with words. It’s something writers try to focus on so that the readers can really immerse themselves in the story. I tend to forget the sensory details when I’m writing the first drafts of my books, especially during action scenes. Luckily, I have a fantastic critique group that’s always asking what the sounds, smells, and touches are like.

For instance, there have been times when Leisha twists a man’s head to kill him. But when I describe the sounds of bones popping, the feel of them twisting under her fingers, and the body falling to the floor in a flopping thud,  you get a much better visual of what’s happening in the story.

Sensory can also help a reader understand the characters in more depth. If there’s a hardened warrior riding his horse into a village, what smells will he notice? Will he note the smell of the stables first, or maybe the perfume coming from the local whorehouse? Perhaps he’d smell the freshly baked bread nearby, or the stink of the privy. Any one of these things that would be described would reflect on what this particular warrior notices and what’s important to him at that time.

When I try to think about all these things as I write my characters, it helps me to realize how much we rely on all of our senses to experience life. This last Easter my kids got Runts candy in their Easter baskets. I hadn’t eaten those since I was probably eight or something. When my son shared some of his candy with me, I felt nostalgic from the first bite. Sudden memories of my childhood and who I played with during the summer popped into my head. It was crazy to realize something so innocuous as cheap candy can bring back fun-filled memories for me.

I have a friend who doesn’t like to go to hospitals because the smell reminds them of when their mother died of cancer there.

After a long day with work and the kids, my husband can relax me by simply putting his arm around me and pulling me into his chest.

Sensory makes our lives richer. If it’s not in the stories we read, then the story isn’t rich and deep. George RR Martin is quoted as saying, “A man who reads lives a thousand lifetimes, and a man who doesn’t read lives only one.”

Well, if you’re going to live a thousand lives through books, make sure each life is vibrant and full of sensory!