USING SENSORY SCIENCE FOR DEEPER DESCRIPTIONS
© 2015 By Jeanne Marie Leach
The dictionary defines the “senses” as any of the faculties involving sight, hearing, smell, taste, or touch, by which humans perceive stimuli originating from outside or inside the body. These five senses are the ones everyone learns about in school, and writer’s groups remind you to be sure to utilize them all.
However, in the scientific world there is no solid consensus among neurologists regarding the actual number of senses because of differing definitions of what actually composes a sense. Humans are considered to have at least six additional senses that include:
- · Balance and acceleration
- · Temperature differences
- · Muscle and joint motion
- · Pain
- · Sense of time
- · Direction
After researching these further, I’ve come to the conclusion that these extra “senses” are a valuable part of descriptions used in fiction stories, so as a fiction author, keep these in mind. Most of them are usually mentioned naturally as the need arises in a story, but a couple of them could easily be overlooked. Using these senses will definitely enhance the word pictures you create and will deepen the characters.
I will focus on these “new” senses each week for the next four weeks.
Balance and acceleration
Balance or equilibrium is the sense which allows us to perceive body movement, direction, and acceleration, and to reach and maintain postural equilibrium and balance, gravitational force, head rotation, linear acceleration, and the direction of gravitational force.
There are times when balance and acceleration are both blatantly important to describe in your story, such as a skier going downhill. Without proper balance, this activity is impossible, so it is going to be a huge part of the imagery.
Then there are the more subtle times when these senses are used, and this is when good details will enhance your writing. For example: think about a person fleeing on foot from the police. They run around a city block. Everyone knows when a person has the momentum of running in a straight line, a sudden turn will throw off their balance. As a result, they will compensate for it by slowing down to make the turn, putting their arms out to maintain their balance, possibly stumbling, or grabbing hold of the building corner to keep themselves from falling over.
Just a quick mention of the sense of balance will take your description to a deeper level and give the reader a word picture that they’ll definitely “see” in their minds.
Be sure to come back next week for Part 2!
Jeanne Marie Leach is a multi-published author and freelance editor specializing in fiction and teaches courses on editing fiction. She is coordinator of The Christian PEN, a member of the Christian Editor Network, and member #46 of The American Christian Fiction Writers, where she received the 2012 Member Service Award. She teaches 32 weeks per year to editors on how to edit fiction and continually keeps abreast of current market trends and hones her knowledge of fiction writing and editing through classes and conferences.
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