Emotion; The Writer's Sixth Sense
After all how can an inanimate object be obstinate?
Yet I believe you all know why. It is heavy, dark, difficult to move and unyielding. I feel it is obstinate, of course it isn’t, it is only a chair.
The other week Natalie Allan popped a post up called “Writerly Thoughts…“ and I got all lyrical over it. The post was about embracing and feeling the world around you, soaking up the sensations presented to you on a daily basis.
She is absolutely right in her post, when she says, “Because how can you describe the beauty your characters are surrounded by if you never see these things for yourself?”. I would like to add that apart from our five normal senses there is a sixth sense that we must nurture and it is to do with why my chair is obstinate.
We all know of the five senses and that we should use them in our work, namely sight, smell, taste, sound and touch. Read any book on writing technique and at some point it will tell you to use all five of the senses to fill out your work and give it a multi-sensual richness. Let us have a brief look at these five enhancers of our work.
Sight: An apple can be a healthy red or a toadstool may be an evil crimson.
Smell: A girl could be wearing a delightful fragrance or an overwhelming perfume
Taste: A sample of food might have an appealing tartness or an unpleasant sourness on the tongue.
Sound: A concert may have a wondrous crescendo at the end or finish in a noisy climax.
Touch: A surface can be sensuously silky smooth or be treacherously icy smooth.
You will have noticed that for each sense the chosen perception was similar, red – crimson, tart – sour, but what made them significantly different was the emotional modifier preceding the perception.
Recently I had the pleasure to attend a reading by Iain M Banks, who during his talk spoke in his low soft Scottish brogue some words that shook me to the core more than if he had shouted them. He was relating another author’s words and they went something like this.
“There are many talented authors out there who could describe a chair and of sitting in it, in brilliant clarity. I however, have a gift, in that if I described sitting in that chair, then the reader would feel the experience of themselves actually sitting in that chair.”
Going over and over the words I have come to the conclusion that the other author’s gift revolved around the two words “feel” and “experience”. To take it from a simple description to one that invokes feelings, he must trigger in his reader the emotions of the moment.
If introducing the five senses into our writing builds richness, then including emotions alongside them adds nothing more than magic.
I ask you now to walk outside and as you do so feel your emotions, sense your feelings, your feelings about everything.
Your feelings towards my impudence in asking you to do this, over the transition of balance from securely sitting to safely standing, during the insecurity as you pass across the threshold of the door, your emotions as you stand in the wind, rain, sun, moonlight.
As you live your life look inside yourself, feel how the world around you swells your heart or rallies your fears, for emotion is truly the writer’s sixth sense and one of our greatest tools.
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