sallyhanan’s blog

A writer’s blog

Writing From the Senses May 8, 2009

Filed under: Writing — sallyhanan @ 5:51 pm
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I went to see a woman recently who had asked for my help. Even by her address, I knew her home was going to look far more beautiful than mine, and I was right; it did. In fact, it was downright drool-worthy. The sad part was that only a few seconds after I walked in the door, I could sense that the kitchen was a place where many tears had been shed.

I’m not going to go into a long, cliched monologue about how riches do not equate to happiness, but I do want to highlight how our senses can translate into good writing. At some point in the future, I will describe her kitchen down to the finest detail, and I will re-engage myself in the emotional whack I got and give it to a character. I will write about her dog rolling onto his back to get a tummy rub, and about her daughter sitting in the hammock outside—trying to stay out of our way.

Happily, when I left the house, the atmosphere in the kitchen had changed. It was full of peace and light, and the tears shed in there that day were tears of happiness. That’s because the core of a woman is not her house; it is her heart, and only when peace lives there can peace live in her home.

So how do I find the right words to paint that kind of picture? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure, but I do know that, as writers, we can go deeper into the mind than most. We think more. We focus more on details. We dream.

Think of a home you were in that was amazing in every way. Think of the things that might happen in that home. They don’t necessarily need to be bad—there are many happy families in fabulous homes. (Sometimes we want to pretend every rich person is miserable just to justify our own lives.) Don’t just see it. Feel it. Smell it. Sense it. Touch it. Hear it. Picture someone walk through the front door. It could be anyone: the teacher, the plumber, the dog. Now let your imagination and senses roam free and finish the story.

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