Inspiration Station: The Five Senses

The Five Senses

What are the five senses?

The five senses are how we get through everyday life: we hear, see, smell, taste, and touch. Life would be pretty dull without these senses.

Why are they important to writing?

The main character of a story–actually, all characters–are the key to keeping a good story going. Readers need to be able to connect with these characters. They want to be these characters. The readers want to love the characters, they want to relate to the characters. Readers can’t do that if they don’t feel what the characters feel, see what they see, hear what they hear… Do you see where I’m going with this?

In real life on a warm summer day we can hear the birds singing outside our window, feel the air conditioner blowing a cool breeze through our hair, we can smell chlorine drifting from our neighbor’s yard, we can see the neighbor’s children riding their bikes down the street, and we can taste the newly grown tomatoes from the garden or cold ice cream on those really hot days.

But is this enough?

What’s the difference between showing and telling the five senses?

It’s one thing to say, “She heard him coming.”

But what about this: “She heard his footsteps clomping down the hall, the floorboards creaking under his weight.”

You tell me which one is showing and which one is telling. Then decide which sentence you think is the most effective.

In the end…

When you’re editing your story and you find you’re lacking the description department, try throwing in a few of the five senses. Remember, your readers want to be see, hear, smell, feel, and taste everything your characters do.

Or… At least most of what they do.

Writing Prompt:

Write a story where the protagonist is missing one of the five senses; for example, a main character who is blind or deaf.

Related Articles:

A Sense of Place in Writing
Descriptive Writing and the Five Senses
How to Unlock All Five Senses in Your Writing


19 thoughts on “Inspiration Station: The Five Senses

  1. I actually plan on creating a blind warrior for a later series. The hardest part in the test scenes is to have her not react to visual stimuli. Never tried any other missing senses though. Trying to think of a character who lacks touch or taste, but those tend to get overlooked.

  2. Hm…now I really want to give that prompt a shot. I know I’ve experimented with a blind character before… It might be fun to try something a little different. My father doesn’t have any sense of taste or smell, so I know he perceives the world a little differently.

    • Really? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that. That’s certainly interesting. I’m sure if you asked him, you’d be able to get a good sense of what to write about. 🙂

    • Wow!!! My Dad has no smell or taste either! he lost it during a surgery to repair an aneurysm. It was very depressing for him at first, He is Italian, and loves the cultural and social aspect of eating. He now describes his food through textures and memories, temperature and appearance. It adds a new dimension to the conversations at dinner!

  3. I may have to try this prompt. It’s a tough one. I just realized that I mostly concentrate on smell and sight in my fiction. Great post.

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