All good things must come to an end. Whether or not this trilogy on the subject of ‘Write What You Know’ was a good thing is debatable. Be that as it may, the end is nigh. At least, it is for this little series of posts.
I’ve talked about expanding your horizons through activity and research. Today I’d like to focus on the little things. Because life isn’t a series of big events strung together like an action movie, it is predominately made up of small moments. That is what I’m going to quickly go over during this post.
Making a reader feel like they are really living the story presented to them is always going to be challenging. The thing to remember is it isn’t always the big stuff that grabs a readers attention, it can be something very small.
Sight – The most utilized sense, sight is often used to tell rather than show. Don’t talk about the rain, talk about the children splashing in puddles while the washerwomen hurry to bring their clothes inside before they get wet.
Smell – Dead bodies are never fun to encounter. The main reason for that is the smell. Make your reader’s stomach reel as you paint a picture of what you are smelling. Or what the character does to combat the smell.
Taste – This sense doesn’t get a lot of time in the spotlight but it still serves a purpose in depicting a scene. Perhaps the character notes a hint of almond in his tea and, knowing this to be a sign of cyanide, quickly rushes to the hospital. Or maybe a man is punched in the nose, the sensation of hot, irony liquid dripping down his face is a powerful image.
Touch – Sadly, there is only so much you can do to find out what the sensation of being shot is. And even then, different people process the pain differently. This is good news for writers as it means there is a lot of leeway in your portrayal of the injury. Again I direct you to the little things. Shaking the hand of a new acquaintance tells you a lot. If they have a strong handshake they have a strong personality and if they have calluses it means they are also a hard worker. The hand may be clammy, indicating anxiety or it may be scaly due to lack of moisture, indicating they don’t take care to use lotion. These minutia come together to create a full and vibrant character.
Hearing – If you are too close to the site of an explosion you will lose your hearing temporarily and in its place will be a high pitched whine. If you listen to an orchestra live it will sound ten times better than if you are listening to a CD. The lilt of a character’s voice as they ask a question or the sound of birds chirping at an annoyingly early hour are both little nuggets of gold that add depth to your story.
So these are just my thoughts. And please, for the love of god, include a bathroom scene. It can be as small as a sentence. Your character is not going to hold it just because you don’t think it’s important.
Bye for now!