Sense appeal

Creating another world in your novel, or novels, is a tall order.

There’s the people, their beliefs, the wildlife, the architecture, the place names, the music, the customs, the landscape… all of it and more needs to be thought through and stitched in to your story in a smooth, organic way.

It’s not just about conjuring that other world though; you also have the task of making it believable and engaging for your reader. In a word, real. Luckily there’s a shortcut when you’re creating other worlds that can engage your readers on a deeper level: appealing to the senses.

We experience the world through our senses. As writers, we can harness that to help our readers experience another world too. If you can appeal to your readers’ senses on the page, it narrows down the gigantic task of world building to five sensory options (and maybe a sixth), which you can mix and match as you see fit. For example:

The dull green sea rushed and tumbled in cold foam on the pebbles. Lucy pulled her rough cloak tight against the winter wind. Thought of home.

And now with added sense-o-vision:

The dull green sea rushed and tumbled in cold foam, fizzing through the pebbles. Lucy pulled her rough cloak tight against the salt-scent winter wind. Thought of home.

It’s not a massive change but it adds that extra dimension, a little more texture, to your words. (Side note: for some reason smell is a particularly powerful and primal sense to appeal to).

The downside is that it can make your writing a little more wordy. But if you restrict yourself to one or two sense descriptions per page throughout your novel, you’ll create a nice balance of pace for your reader, and the use of senses to engage them further in your world.

 

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