Word of the week: onomatopoeia /ˌänəˌmatəˈpēə/ (hear it!) - noun: the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it (as buzz, hiss); the use of words whose sound suggests the sense - (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Greetings, all! And welcome back.

I'd like to take a break from my mad writer ramblings to toss you my first-ever article for the online magazine, The Writer's Beat Quarterly, formerly known as In Pencil in 2008.

Back then, I had been just handed a moderator position at The Writer's Beat writing community and was excited to learn that not only would I become one of the many editors on the staff team (and have been so for four years, going on five), but I could also contribute articles to this ever-growing e-zine with a built-in readership! In other words, I could share what I learned over time about writing, editing, and the publishing world. Small-time exciting stuff! For a small-time writer, that is.

So, what topic had I picked for my first-ever article in my brand-spanking new contributing editor's position? One of my favorite, and something all writers (particularly newbies) need to stay mindful of.

Please allow me explain: With some exception, humans generally take in the majority of their world through sight, which (again, generally, and I offer this up in the broadest of notions) the other four senses take a subconscious back seat to. For the majority of the time, this is somewhat fine and dandy . . . for real life purposes.

For a writer, however, presenting only what characters “see” around them does both a scene and a potential reader a huge disservice; it leaves the story's world much too “flat.” Linear, perhaps. Narrow. One-dimensional—wait, no. Mathematically, that would be a dot. Two-dimensional. Yeah . . . kind of like a plane (no, not the kind that fly, unless you plan to throw a vast area of flat space with no depth and—ha!—yes, right . . . best of luck with that), or a tabletop, only . . . without all of those wonderful extra “goodies” that give substance to a real-life, three-dimensional tabletop; i.e. a more “rounded” item that “pops out” of the book and pops the reader in the nose, and I don't mean via a children's pop up book.

And yes, I have been smacked in the face by a tabletop.

So now, without further ado, allow me to make much ado about something, or possibly nothing (depending on how you want to look at it), with my first-ever WBQ article . . . 

* * *

Tickle Your Readers' Senses 

Consider a world. Tasteless, odourless. A place where the sense of touch is non-existent and the only sounds are of people talking. Oh, but its sights!

A woodland trail lined with clusters of ferns stretches before you. Sunlight streaks through a canopy of leaves to dapple the forest floor with a soft play of light and shadows. Small birds sift for morsels: worms, fallen red berries, an occasional bug or two. Chipmunks dart and bushy-tailed squirrels scamper. A stone wall runs parallel to the path. You stroll along, your dog romping and nosing ahead of you, a smile upon your face. What a glorious day. You're glad you'd decided to take a walk that afternoon.

Easily visualised, right? Of course. But don't you feel cheated, just a little bit?

Many new writers make the mistake of relying solely on sight to tell their tales. Sight is important, no doubt, but so are the other senses. A world, no matter how decorative, will still feel 'flat' if these vital details are withheld.

Take our world, for example. Our world is alive; it pulsates with different sounds, tastes, smells and textures. Thunder booms and lightning crackles. Unsweetened coffee nips at the tongue, hot and bitter. Sulphur burns the nostrils. Hedgehog spines prickle and sweat itches on a hot day. A cornucopia of stimuli surrounds us all the time. Take these away and what do you have? A lack of depth in sensory detail. Our world doesn't rob us of its splendour, so why should you deprive your readers of your story world's delights? 

Immersing them in a world rich with sounds, tastes, smells and, yes, even touch, is easier than you might think.

[Please click here to read on.]

Photo credit for redwood forest - goingslo (Linda Tanner) – Flicker Photo Sharing – Creative Commons License


  1. Great article! Gave me a lot to think about, in kind of a 'duh...why haven't I ever thought of that before' kind of way.

    1. Ooo! Yay. Thank you for reading, Monica. :) I had a lot of fun writing the article, way back when. :D Glad you liked it.

  2. Excellent article!

    I think one sense that I've probably neglected might be the sense of smell. And I can think of a couple spots in my ms where I can add a mention...

    1. Thank you very much, William! Yeah, it's hard to get used to at first, but involving all the senses is so, so important in writing. :D Glad you'd stopped by . . . and left a comment. Have a chocolate chip cookie. :)

  3. Excellent point!! Shit, I don't think I referred to smells anywhere in my WIP yet. I'm visual, so I'm sure I left out all the other senses.

    1. Hi there, Krisztina. Welcome! Nice to have you drop by. :) Ah, WIPs . . . and editing. Yes. It's so hard to remember to include all of the senses, especially in first, or second, or even third drafts. With so much going on -- plot-wise, character-wise -- and making sure everything fits together properly, I wonder if adding in descriptions involving the other senses isn't best left until say, oh . . . the tenth revision or so. Lol! But yeah, to round everything out for the reader, a variety of senses work so well. :)