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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Words With Impact: Honest Code: Sensory Vocabulary

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“The senses are as core a scene element as you can get, and are very important in writing fiction because they transform flat words on a page into three-dimensional, realistic scenes.” Jordan E. Rosenfeld

The added beauty from a mythic world perspective is that the reality of common day-to-day activities can be developed into shadows, as passages from long ago or as foretelling to the future. They also have the potential to tap into echoes and allusions and metaphors. One way to access allusion and echoes is through the speech of metaphor, which enables us to enrich language and go beyond clichés.

For example in our early draft we just write everything down as it comes to us through our senses. Usually we lean on ordinary words for basic descriptions. Then we go back through to paint in feelings and scenery and ambiance. But sometimes we’re still stuck with the ordinary because it’s so familiar that other thoughts or phrases just won’t come to mind without sounding artificial or planted.

A good exercise to try is to describe an object without saying what it is. Try it out at the dinner table and see if your family can guess. This helps pull in new sensory details.

When eating new foods or hearing new sounds the concrete details help the reader recognize the character as more real as he reacts to the senses. Actually no sensory observation is complete until the fictional character’s emotional response is included.

We need the essential-specific word choices: salty-sour-sweet-bitter. If it smells bad is it like a sewer, or low tide? However we also need to recognize that what smells bad to one character may actually be sweet to another. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog post, I discovered that one day when driving with an elderly friend. I smelt something noxious and worried it was my car. I asked if she could smell it and her reply was “isn’t it lovely?” Apparently we smelled sulfur, which to her reminded her of where she grew up near sulfur springs.

We also can’t incorporate every item, but need to choose which specific details are appropriate to enhance each scene. What will create the mood? Even in a fast moving fight scene we can have character feel the sweat and taste the blood on his lip. Concrete down to earth details that may or may not rise to metaphor, or symbol.           

Action Steps:

1. Repeat the “Read” the word action steps from last week focusing solely on what you can remember were sensory details that caught your attention or you most identified with. Write them down.

2. Choose the one that you found most curious or unexpected as a connection. Then again check with a dictionary or thesaurus to make a list of all the words you think would also have that impact. Which sensory focus do you want to catch a reader attention in your own novel?

Share: What was the funniest guess a family member shared?

Read deep, marcy

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"The Seeker" Rachel Marks | Content Copyright Marcy Weydemuller | Site by Eagle Designs
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