It’s November in New England. I love autumn walks, whether it’s on a trail through the woods or just around my neighborhood. I tend to spend a lot of time outside this time of year, not only because I relish the magnificence of fall, but also because I know a long winter is fast approaching. Any time the temperature reaches above forty, I want to take advantage of it.
As I stepped outside the other evening to go for a walk just before dusk, it wasn’t just the brilliant red maples that caught my attention. All five senses were engaged. Crows cawed overhead. I smelled the comforting smoke of a neighbor’s fireplace. I felt a chilly November breeze on my cheeks. I watched stray oak leaves waft to the ground from the branches they’d clung to. I could practically taste winter around the corner.
As a writer, it reminded me how using senses other than just the visual helps to fully capture a scene. We may even make a connection to readers’ own sense memories that will transport them right into the book alongside our characters.
Writing a cheese shop mystery series keeps me acutely aware to use the senses of taste and smell. I may rely on sound to pump up the suspense—the first sign that my protagonist isn’t alone. How something feels might help to convey the tone of the scene, like describing the prickly bush my amateur sleuth is hiding in or how that new sweater she’s wearing on her first date is impossibly itchy. Writing in the first-person point of view allows me to naturally focus on only what my main character notices in the moment, so as not to slow the action with sensory overload. I also like to occasionally use that sixth sense—intuition!
What’s your strongest sense memory—one that can bring you immediately back to the place or time you first experienced it?