Sense and Sensuality
by Janet Fitch, April 2000 Fiction Writer MagazineAngling for Description: Use Synesthesia, which is when you use one sense to describe another. Like hearing colors. Here two exercises using the sense of taste and sense of smell.
Exercise 1: Take a food, preferably something strong that can reach through your imagination, and write about it. Try describing it in basic ways before taking a leap of imagination and using synesthesia.
Exercise 2: Take a perfume or various fragrances and try writing about them. Sample essential oils, spices, herbs and common household cleaning substances. Don’t sniff directly from the bottles, but open them up like chemists do and then move your hand across it to move the scent in your direction.
Use the Five Senses to stimulate a character’s Memory like Marcel Proust has done. Touch can be the most intense of the five senses. If you describe a sky as yellow that appeals to sight. But describe it as lemon yellow and both smell and taste are called upon as well. Here are four exercises that explore the sense of touch, sense of hearing and sense of sight.
Exercise 3: Amass a number of items that are textually interesting. For example: Sand, feathers, rock, hammer, rubber duck, spoon, sponge, nylon stocking, gravel, marbles, and a stuffed animal. Close eyes and pick up and describe it.
Exercise 4: Take a piece of fabric. Close your eyes and feel it. Touch it to your face, lips, neck, under your feet and behind your knees. What could the cloth be? A piece of cloth from a scratchy school uniform, a piece of velvet from your grandmother’s couch?
Exercise 5: Take ten minutes to just listen. Record the ambient sound at various times in various places. Note that over time there are audible differences between sound at 3pm and 3am. You can also pick particular music you wouldn’t normally listen to while you are writing and listen to it. If you hate polka, listen to it and see what happens when you sit down to write.
Exercise 6: Practice writing about Light. Develop a new vocabulary. Put a candle in the room and write about what you see. How does the light fall? Which angle does it fall at? What direction is the light coming from? What is the color of the light?