Reading and writing with all 5 senses

The Five Senses by Herve TulletReading is a very sensory experience. If you pick up a book, you immediately touch the pages, see the words (a greatly underrated experience in itself) — and probably smell the book, too, regardless of whether you have a new or old copy.

Sometimes this is a bad experience — like my recent purchase of Life of Pi (soon to be a movie), a used edition that smells a lot like ketchup, much to my displeasure. Seriously. Gross.

Those who read aloud in their heads might “hear” the words (also a beneficial practice), but chances are you’re not tasting. That’s where words exhibit their power through story. The sights, smells, and sounds … a good author knows how to grab the reader with vivid, sensory-appealing imagery.

Smell might be the strongest tie to memory, but for me, nothing lures me in like a good description of a delicious meal. Every time. As soon as roast chicken, strawberry tarts, or some sort of savory dish involved, I’m hungry and wishing I lived in medieval times. Or at Hogwarts (here’s a cool breakdown of all the food and drink served at the wizard school.)

What about you? Do any of the five senses really get to you when you read? And go ahead — count the so-called sixth sense, too. Maybe ghosts really freak you out. :)

11 thoughts on “Reading and writing with all 5 senses

  1. as writers we can sometimes depend too much on sight descriptions. using the other senses can really help anchor a scene so much better in the reader’s mind. love the hp food list! i grew up on cs lewis and he always made sure to include lovely descriptions of food that made my mouth water.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Valerie! J. K. Rowling always gets me with her food descriptions … so does J. R. R. Martin! :P But you’re absolutely right — the other senses are just as important. And nothing endears me quite like a book that makes me hungry for awesome food.

  2. I really wish I was in Hogwarts when they serve delicious dishes. Those lucky bastards, Well, at least I don’t have a He Who Must Not Be Named lurking around desiring a taste of my blood.
    Or in a medieval great royal hall where they’re stuffing themselves (although I could be without the puking and urinating in front of the other guests, not to mention the lack of hygiene even among the royal).

    I love when authors describe the food in the books, or smells and other “senses”. Like when they try to describe something surreal in a way that the reader will understand. It really breathes life into the story.

    I’d love to taste some Lembas or that kind of rejuvenating water the Elves serve in J.R.R. Tolkiens works. Or that wonderful Orch brew that just knows how to warm you up in the middle of a chilly night!

      1. Wikipedia says: ” It is tastier than cram or Beorn’s honey-cakes”, so I always imagined it tasting full of the aroma of freshly baked white bread and with a hint of sweetness and some kind of herb. I think it becomes tasteless when you’ve eaten nothing but Lembas in months or so. :-P

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