Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Five Senses

Today’s RTW question from YA Highway: The Five Senses. How you use them in your writing, how you are inspired by them, pictorial essays, that character with smelly socks, books that have used them well, the ones that are currently missing from your work, etc.
This is a great reminder for writers to actually use all five senses in their writing—in my manuscript I use each sense to some extent: sight (the bustling marketplace, dancing), smells (spices, fish fresh from the ocean), sound (merchants yelling, tambourines jingling), taste (hearty ale, sugary marzipan), feel (the difference between chaffing wool and smooth silk). But whether I include enough of those details and incorporate them well enough isn’t so obvious—I’ll keep the five senses in mind during revision!
Books that use the five senses extra well:
You by Charles Benoit: if you don’t have a visceral reaction from the vivid descriptions of the accident, something is wrong with you!
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins: Descriptions using so many different senses really bring Paris alive.
Love and Leftovers (ARC) by Sarah Tregay: Some really unique food imagery and taste in this adorable novel in prose.
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: Don’t those Hogwarts dinners make you salivate?
Chime by Frannie Billingsley: The delicate imagery used to describe the Welsh setting of this novel is beautiful.

I’m having trouble thinking of other examples—both in my own writing and YA books that use the senses well—so please share your thoughts!


  1. DUDE. I loooooved You. So visceral, I totally agree! And mmm, those Harry Potter feasts. :)

  2. I agree that ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS used sensory details expertly. This topic was a much-needed reminder to me to think about how I'm writing description.
    I like the example you used for feel!

  3. Anna and the French Kiss, totally. That book seems to be a connecting theme throughout all of these RTW blogs!

  4. You're so spot-on with Chime. I loved the tangible quality of that book.

  5. I try to use sensory details in less-than-obvious ways, like when my MC is imprisoned and she presses up against the bars on the window, she notices the grime and grit digging into her skin.

    And love your example of marzipan--I associate a smell and texture with it, as well as taste.

  6. Thank goodness for revisions. I have a post-it on my manuscript to do a pass for the five senses later in revisions.

    Oh, and I agree with many of the books you listed. Anna and the French Kiss was the first to come to my mind. I can't be certain, but I'm almost sure I was in Paris while reading that.

  7. These are great examples! And I've only read the first page of You (Must fix that!) and I SAW everything.

  8. Thanks for all the comments! I guess the consensus is we all need to be more mindful of the five senses while writing, and that ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS does it extraordinarily well! :-)