<$Susan Goodwill$>

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

NaNo #19 Sense and Sensuality

Sense and Sensuality
In The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing --a Writer's Digest compilation of articles and essays with contributors as varied as Margaret Atwood, Kurt Vonnegut, and Tom Clancy, (my edition is copyrighted 2002) I stumbled on a discussion about Sense and Sensuality by Janet Fitch the author of White Oleander.
She tells us how sanitized the average post millenial reader's environment has become.
"The millennial reader is starving for sensual information. He wants the world back. And this is what good writing gives us--a rich "full spectrum" sensual experience. Appealing to the five senses is the feature that will always set writing apart from the visual media. A good writer will tell us what the world smells like, what the textures are, what the sounds are, what the light looks like, what the weather is."

She lists several exercises for upping our awareness of our five senses-- everything from collecting and feeling feathers, rocks, sponges, fabrics, and writing your descriptions, to using a "scent organ" a box with ten small bottles, each containing a few drops of an essential oil you have chosen for its personal evocativeness. She chose a bitter orange because it reminded her of the rotting fruit in L.A., pikake because it reminded her of her mother's Hawaiian perfume. She also recommends keeping a sense journal where you collect these descriptions and reach through them to scenes, a time of day, a place, people, experiences, real or imagined .

There is so much more, but I leave you with this tip from Janet-- read wine reviews! They approach sensual description very effectively, using one sense to describe another. Wines are sharp, have baritone notes, are blonde, crisp, spritely.
A wine review may start with a literal description, but will quickly move to the other senses, and as a fiction writer, you can move even further, into fantasy, from the chocolatey and oaken tones of a cabernet to the rich brocade of its velvets to the checkered tablecoth between you and Jean Luc as you shared the bottle during harvest season.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my favorite all time books is Diane Ackerman's _A Natural History of the Senses_. It is a wonderful read.

One thing I do when I'm getting into a new novel is to try the food that's closest to the world I'm writing about. Fantasy my work may be, but it's grounded in the real world. I'll buy cookbooks, go to restaurants. I want to challenge my senses and understanding of culture with the taste of something outside my normal life. Even something simple and common as a foreign dish can tell you a great deal about a culture.

But it's not just foreign foods that can do that. Laurie R. King, in her book _A Grave Talent_, still has me thinking about strawberries in a different way, just on the discussion about a painting in that book.

It is a lush world we have. I embrace it greedily.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006  

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