Sunday, June 09, 2019

Sunday Writing Tip: Are You Using Enough Sensory Details in Your Descriptions?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Each week, I’ll offer a tip you can take and apply to your WIP to help improve it. They’ll be easy to do and shouldn’t take long, so they’ll be tips you can do without taking up your Sunday. Though I do reserve the right to offer a good tip now and then that will take longer—but only because it would apply to the entire manuscript.

This week, check how many senses you're using when you describe things in a scene.

It's easy to remember sight and sound, since characters look at and listen to the world around them. But what about smell? Touch? Taste? You can flesh out a setting by adding sensory details. While not every description will need to use all five senses, catching a whiff of a scent instead of seeing what's causing the smell can be more powerful. Smell also triggers memories, so it's a great tool for when a character needs to remember something.

Check out your scenes, especially any setting descriptions. Try to use each of the five senses at least once in your descriptions.

For more on creating stronger descriptions in your novel, try these articles:


  1. Always an important lesson. One thing I like to remember: never think of it as juggling five senses at once.

    The two main senses have different ways of focusing. Sight follows what the character is paying attention to (it's called Point of View, after all), although it can relax and take in general surroundings as well. Hearing takes in everything always, so it may keep you aware of everything noisy that you weren't focused on-- though of course whatever's drawn the eye may well be making the most sound too. Smell works like hearing (you catch whatever's most stinky, all the time), and touch and taste like sight in that you mostly choose to pick up or eat something.

    I hate juggling five of anything. But balancing sight and hearing's patterns, and then mixing in the other sight-type and hearing-type senses along the same lines, can work.

    1. Excellent way of describing that. Thanks!