Thursday, April 18, 2019

Sight with Insight: Maximizing Your Author Senses

By Sherry Howard, @SherLHoward

Part of The Writer’s Life Series

JH: A writer’s senses are important tools in crafting fiction. Please help me welcome Sherry Howard to the lecture hall today to share some thoughts on making the most of your senses.

Sherry Howard lives in Middletown, Kentucky, in a household busy with kids and pets. She worked as an educator, and now has the luxury of writing full time. Her debut picture book, Rock and Roll Woods, released in October, 2018. And her middle grade NF, Deep Sea Divers, just released. She has more books in the pipeline for publication soon.

Sherry loves to meet other readers and writers, so be in touch on social media here:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Take it away Sherry…

Sensory integration is a fascinating part of our beings. As a professional educator, I studied how sensory processing problems impact learning. Naturally, I’m curious about sensory integration from a writer’s perspective. Sensory integration allows our brains to process and organize all of the input from the world around us, and use the information later.

Spidey Senses for Writers

So many things about your interaction with the world change when you become a writer. I like to think that we develop extra-special super-duper spidey senses, with an elevated ability to absorb the world around us. Immanuel Kant said that “All our knowledge begins with the senses . . .” Writers, of all people, need to store up that sensory knowledge for future use. Since many writers have introvert personalities, they are free to listen, observe, and absorb. Think the absent-minded professor, taking it all in, storing it up, using it for the perfect murder—figuratively speaking, of course.

Albert Einstein summed it up: “No idea is conceived in our mind independent of our five senses.” This sounds overly simplified, but as writers, we become more and more tuned in to our senses because we crave those ideas that keep our creative juices flowing.

(Here's more on Make Your Setting Come Alive)

Writer Sixth Sense

Writers bring more to the table than five senses. Intuition plays a huge role in sorting out what we store up through our other senses. The five senses provide the ingredients, and intuition gives us a recipe to use them. After all, when a writer sits down to begin a new work, they pull ideas from something immediately around them, or something stored in memory. But, it’s their intuition that inspires them with ways to form all of that information into a story or article that will interest others.

Make the Most of Your Sensory Gifts

So you want to make the most of your sensory intake? Then try things out of your normal experience. Shake things up a bit. Look through a different lens.

The things you see every day become almost invisible to you—part of the furniture. An example of this has had me laughing for weeks. My youngest recently started work as an Emergency Medical Technician. Day after day, he’d ask me the same question when he came in from work, “Now, how old are you?” And stare in disbelief when I told him. My appearance had been part of the furniture, ignored by his sensory processing, until he saw new people of a certain age, and looked at me with fresh eyes. New job, new environment, new lens, new perception.

Writers need fresh eyes. So, get your eyes and ears out of your normal, and look and listen. Take notes.

(Here's more on Putting In Your Five Senses Worth)

Shift Your Senses Out of Autopilot

You have places to go, people to see, things to do! Put your writer spidey senses to work, and see if it doesn’t add spice to your writing. Your attention to all of the sensory detail around you will translate to sensory detail on the page, and engage your readers. Sensory words evoke feelings and engagement that non-sensory words can’t.

Here’s a quick paragraph loaded with sensory details:
The dazzling lights glowed in the night sky for miles around. Fluffy cotton candy decorated the sticky fists of swarming children. The crash of the mallet on the nearby game startled me. Jonathan’s reassuring touch settled the rhythm of my pounding heart. We staggered across the bumpy rocks, away from the crowds, and found a secluded bench. Surrounded by the odors of stale grease and sugar, I sobbed.
It’s pretty easy to visualize that scene, right? In only a paragraph, you know a lot about who, what, and where. Not the whole story, but a strong sense of place and emotion. I pulled from my store of sensory data, used my intuition to figure out an interesting scenario, and a story was born!

What can you do to shift your sensory intake and processing in a way that helps you as a writer?

About Deep Sea Divers

Daring and Dangerous: Deep Sea Divers for grades 4–8 introduces young readers to the exciting world of deep sea diving. From the amazing areas that divers explore to the common dangers they face underwater, this 32-page fact- and photo-filled book offers young readers an opportunity to learn how divers stay save and what they discover about our complex, beautiful world.

The Daring and Dangerous Stunt Performers series is an action-packed escape into some of the most daring and dangerous activities on – and beyond – the planet. With topics ranging from stunt performers to space explorers, each spread in these books stands alone so reluctant readers can flip through until something catches their attention. Each book also features glossary words (defined on the pages in which they appear) and a memory game that encourages readers' recall as they are asked to match images to what they've read

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound | Kobo |

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