by: Rhéal Nadeau
Posted on: Sun, 25 Nov 2001
This exercise falls into the "Involving
the senses" series.
Involving all the senses is a powerful
tool to liven up our writing
and draw in
the reader. Too often, however, writers limit themselves to visual
and dialogue. This yields a world with no taste, no smell, no texture.
One way to explore the senses is to
imagine what things would be
them. So for this exercise, write a scene where the character(s) can't
whatever reason (blindness, darkness, whatever.) How would that person
the world? (This exercise is similar to one we did in February,
Try to use all the other senses: smell,
taste, touch, hearing.
Recommended word limit: 300 words.
Rhéal Nadeau's wrap-up
This was not an easy exercise. We are so
used to using visuals, or
labels, in our writing that it is hard to take a step back and try to
without using sight.
I remember speaking with a friend who had
been blind since birth.
topic of guns came up, and his comment was "I have no idea what a gun
Even for us with sight, how do we
recognize a gun? How would we
recognize it in
the dark? (And the word "gun" covers such a range, from tiny one-shot
that can be hidden in an hand to massive artillery.) And yet, somehow,
easy to think that if I use the word "gun" when writing, people will
Many of the submissions did a good job of
using the senses other
than sight to
bring a scene to life. Others struggled, though. Information sneaked in
would only have been available through sight (or without showing how
character could identify an object.) Some scenes stressed the absence
but without providing other sensory information. Some of the subs, as a
felt as if they were being narrated rather than experienced - the
telling us what was going on (even when the point-of-view character
have been able to understand the situation that easily.)
To summarize: because the exercise was
difficult, the results were
That's fine - we're here to learn, and I hope the difficulties of this
will help us all learn more about how to present a situation using the
senses. And the results demonstrate that this is a topic worth working
on, so I
hope to run a follow-up exercise before too long.
As always, congratulations to all those
who submitted their efforts,
to those who took the time to critique them.
Web site created by
Rhéal Nadeau and
the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.