A few weeks ago I attended a literary festival in Tiverton, Devon and one of the sessions I signed up for was a ‘Historical Fiction Masterclass’. As you’d expect, the multi-published author running the class covered research, the importance of accuracy and setting, costume etc. Funnily enough, it wasn’t these aspects that struck me the most, but a very simple exercise on the importance of using the five senses in our writing.
A fundamental part of the writing process that could well have been sorely lacking in my own work recently…
Touch, sight, smell, sound & taste are vital in fiction if you wish to immerse your reader in the time and tone of your story. The exercise the tutor had us do was simple, but brilliant in getting the imagination flowing! We had to choose one of the five scenes she pinned on a board and list three items under the heading of each sense that the scene provoked.
I chose a desert scene and here are some of the things I listed:
Blue skies, sand, camels, stone
Animals, shouting, whistling winds
Spices, water, sand
Maybe my instinctive responses aren’t particularly imaginative BUT they did give me a clear understanding of how the senses need to be expressed in each and every scene. As I start revisions on my latest historical novel, I will be much more diligent in where I can enhance the scene by using each and every sense!