Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sunday Musings: The "go to" sense for writing

Hello, Sunday Musers!

Enjoying your weekend, I hope. Been busy clearing out the main living floor in anticipation of new flooring coming in this week. Talk about chaos.

I dislike disorder. I need things in their places and a visual balance to my living area...even if some think it's crowded or too much. Which brings us to the musing of this week:

What's your 'go to' sense when writing?

Mental? I tend to internalize when writing. Bring everything into the character's mind and perspective. When I first started writing I know my voice was telling and am working to change that.

My go to is visual. When I write my books, I’m transcribing the scene as it happens in my noggin. Think of it like a movie scene. I tend to hit pause, rewind, slow forward, pause, rewind, etc. until I get it just right.  So my first time through a scene is all about the visual. Then, I’ll go through and layer in the emotional for depth and fill in my holes with the other senses.

The sense I go to, if it may be so termed, is my mind.  When a thought, potential scene/situation, or piece of dialog that seems to possess a life of its own comes into my head, I play with it for a time.  If it continues to grow, I take out the trusty pencil and paper and hit the books and computer for the necessary research.

For me, I depend on sight, I believe, more than anything. But I also firmly believe that part of the "show-don't-tell" approach for me is to avoid (I never use "never" anymore; I know better LOL) the use of "she felt" or "He saw." I do my best to simply let a scene unfold visually with things happening, things appearing, all on their own, so my readers can experience them at the same time, in the same way as my characters. I do love a visual panorama. One of my favorite scenes using this approach is from Becoming NADIA, my EPIC-Award winning debut novel:

"The early morning sun had not yet cleared the ridge behind the cabin, but light was beginning to shine down into the valley, gently waking the Shenandoah River. The water sighed as it flowed over deadfalls and rocks along the shore, and an occasional ripple betrayed the fish beneath the surface.

Nadia sat on the edge of the wooden dock watching the sun come up. Her toes came just short of reaching the murky river. She could see the light growing brighter with each passing minute, and watched the mist float above the water, like a curtain waiting to be drawn, caressing her lightly as it passed with the river. Birds struck up their songs in the trees, awakening the morning. Behind her, a faint rustle in the undergrowth told her that a rabbit or some other small animal was beginning its busy day. She sat and thought of nothing. Or, at least, she tried to think of nothing."

MJ LABEFF, New Mainstream author

My go to sense when writing and my worst writing mistake. My go to sense is hearing. The sound that engages my creativity the most is running water. I really should hang a dry erase board in the shower- it’s inevitable the scene I’m writing will continue there or the next big plot idea will emerge. Music can also help stimulate my writing but often times it’s distracting because I’ll start to sing along. Depending upon what’s happening in a scene, music does help me convey a character’s emotions. If I need to write someone feeling sad, happy, angry, scared or surprised I’ll choose a song that conveys that emotion to me. It’s important to engage all of a reader’s senses. Ironically writing the senses can aid writers in making newbie mistakes.

This is an unusual sense, but I really feel mine is the sense of touch. I start out with a sentence whenever I write prose or a phrase when I’m writing poetry and then as I am typing the rest of the words will come to me. My mind seems to turn on when my fingers touch the computer keys. I can also do that with a pen. If I start out writing the actual writing will give me more ideas and I just keep writing. So I can start with a sentence and not know where it is going and end up with 2000 words of a story that has begun. Or in the case of a chapter in a book, a complete chapter adding to the book. Usually I don’t know where my story or my poem is going and it adds to the writing. As I write I get more and more of an idea of what I want to say.

My goto sense when writing is whatever the character is most connected to.

Raymond Jaye, my cop/turned PI, lost his left hand to a pipe bomb. He doesn't really talk about touch. His is mostly about sight and sound.

Lisa, a type of spirit I can't possibly explain in under 2000 words and from another series not yet published, is new to having a physical body. She's known a version of sight and sound, but touch fascinates her. She doesn't feel pleasure or pain, only the intensity of a sensation, and her point of view is dominated by that. The way silk clings to slightly damp skin is no better or worse than the gentle tug a knife blade makes the instant before the skin parts and the new sensation rushes in.

In my description, I use sight, hearing, and smell more than touch and taste. Probably because I can't pick out the subtle flavors in scotch of feel the pips on a Braille sign as individual things.

As a visual learner, sight is the most important sense to me but if I'm trying to describe a scene in a story, I usually try to engage the other senses, and the first one that usually comes to mind, is smell. Obviously, describing the smell of a scene may not be appropriate but if it is, it can be very evocative and effective. A smell can be a powerful trigger to arouse emotions or stimulate memories, and can help to bring a scene to life. I am currently working on the sequel to 'DAFFODIL AND THE THIN PLACE' and I am in the middle of describing the smell of a World War One dressing station on the Somme!

I am a strongly visual person and perversely, that is perhaps the sense I have to work hardest at when writing, perhaps because I know what I am seeing in my imagination and therefore might not include sufficient detail in the text to enable the reader to see what I am seeing. There are usually decisions to be made as to how much to spell out and how much to leave to the reader’s imagination. I once worked in central Africa and visited a real live rain forest. Immediately I was back home in the tropical greenhouse at Kew Gardens, a beautiful horticultural centre in London, which is the only place I had previously smelt that warm, damp earth aroma before. The strongest sense as to place is possibly smell and I find that quite challenging to put across in writing.

Touch and sight. Given my genre is the erotic, I find these two senses the easiest to start writing with and then move into the other senses and the characters get closer.

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at

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