Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Using the Five Senses

The written word resonates deeply when the writer evokes settings with the help of all five senses:
Sight
Sound
Touch
Taste
Smell

The more senses you reference, the more vividly a scene is drawn in the reader's mind.

Right now, I'm sitting in a restaurant, waiting for my lunch.

That's a description, but it doesn't tell you much. Is it a fine dining establishment, or a greasy spoon? Is it packed full of people or am I the only patron? Is my table full of food, or do I only have a water goblet?

Let's evoke a couple of senses and see.

I'm sitting in a four-top booth, my mother across from me, and my netbook on the table. The seat bottom of the benches is made of vinyl, and the backs of the kind of cloth that belongs on my grandfather's reclining chair. On the wall to my left is a huge, framed jersey signed by one of my favourite hockey players: Sidney Crosby, number 87 for the Pittsburgh Penguins. My glass of water is filled with so much ice that it tastes more like winter than water. As soon as the waitress brought over the condiment caddy, my mouth began to water in anticipation of my sweet potato fries topped with ketchup and the marvelous zing of malt vinegar.

That's better, isn't it? The hockey poster and booth description (sight) give you a better idea of the place. And since I described the water and the caddy (taste), you know I'm going to have fries but they aren't in front of me yet. I used sight and taste so far. Let's use a few more senses.

The table is so sticky, I've set my netbook on top of my napkin, for my computer's own safety. I'm not sure whether the grain in the dark wood table or the countless scratches from previous patrons is the culprit, but every time I hit the space bar, the netbook wobbles a little. The song playing on the radio is a classic from the late eighties, reminding me more of my high school days that I feel comfortable with today. I've had too much reminiscing for one morning as it is, what with prepping for Thursday's funeral and all.

Now you know even more. The table is uneven and sticky (touch) and the restaurant is playing a hit track from the 1980s (sound) in the background.

The people in the booth behind my mother ordered some pasta dishes, and all I've been able to smell since their food arrived is parmesan and garlic. Somehow, my grilled cheese didn't taste nearly as flavourful in the presence of the Italian double-whammy. If only I could smell the chocolate cake the waitress just delivered to the booth behind me. I know the calories would blow my diet into oblivion, but I do soooo love my chocolate.

Does that give you a better idea of my lunch? Who I'm with, where I am, what I ate, and how I'm feeling?

Do it now:
Grab your handy notebook/laptop/tablet/napkin and describe where you're sitting right now. Try to invoke all five senses. Feel free to share your description in the comments section.

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