Posted in Character Development, descriptive writing, Writing

How To Write Believable Characters Without All 5 Senses

It’s not every day we come across a person who doesn’t have all 5 of their senses. Some people are blind, some are deaf, and some are both. Some people have anosmia (no sense of smell), ageusia (no sense of taste), or both.

I have all my 5 senses, so it’s hard to imagine having only 4 or 3 of those senses. And I’m amazed at the people who go through life without all 5 senses simply. Yes, it’s something they have to do, have to get used to and live with, but we, as human beings, tend to take everything for granted.

If someone is born without, for example, sight or hearing they don’t know how different world could be. They live in the same world but view it differently and they live their lives just like everyone else.

But if someone loses a sense or two throughout the course of their life, whether they’re a teenager or adult, whether it’s from an accident or an illness, losing that can take a toll on a person. It can be a little isolating or even depressing.

And I know all this from people I’ve met in the past, from reading memoirs, and from doing research. Even though I “know it,” that doesn’t mean I understand it. Honestly, I could never understand it, simply because I can’t imagine how it would feel like to not be able to taste anything.

That’s why it’s so important, as writers, to write believable characters.

How to write believable characters without all five senses | descriptive creative writing

Why is this important?

Diversity.

When you think of diversity, you tend to think of race or ethnicity, etc. It’s not often we think of a disability, whether it’s physical or mental. People who don’t have all five senses are more common than not.

Not only will you be adding diversity to your characters, but you’ll be writing your story in a whole new way. You can’t describe a telephone ringing when you’re writing a character who can’t hear. Or maybe they have hearing aids and can hear a little, but it’s still not the same.

So, how do you write a character without all 5 senses?

Not without 100% accuracy. Still, there are many ways you can research how to write it all out.

  • Read books – The library is your friend
  • Google – The Internet is a vast place
  • Interviews – Talk to people with these impairments and also to their teachers, family, and friends as well. Get the point of view of everyone.
  • Teach yourself – Research Braille, American Sign Language, etc. Get a feel for what it’s like to talk with your hands. It’ll make it easier to describe.

In conclusion…

There are many ways to learn about such a thing, just like how you research everything else you don’t know about or don’t understand.

There are some things you can never understand fully, but it doesn’t hurt to do some research and try your best.

Have you written any characters without all 5 senses? How did you go about it? Let me know in the comments below!

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Author:

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Rachel Poli is a writer and blogger. She has an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a bachelor’s degree in English Studies. She enjoys writing young adult novels, middle-grade, and children’s picture books. She is currently working on her first novel.

20 thoughts on “How To Write Believable Characters Without All 5 Senses

  1. I’ve written a five book series spacifically designed to illustrate how things are for a blind person, and the challenges faced by someone adjusting from sight loss. They’re based on my own experiences, though I was several years older than the main character when I lost the last of my sight.

    Also, for the record, I’m always willing to help out where I can when it comes to anyone wishing to speak to someone as part of their research in preporation for writing a blind character.

    1. Wow, that’s awesome! Good for you. I can’t imagine what that must feel like, but I’m sure it’s normality to you at this point.

      And I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks for offering. 🙂

      1. A normality… Yes. Something I’m totally at peace with… Not so much. I was luckier than many, and had plenty of warning – it was from an eye condition I was born with, rather than being from a sudden accident or something – so that helped some, but there are some things you really can’t prepare yourself for entirely, and this is one of them.

        Anyway, you’re welcome regarding the offer.

      2. Yeah, I’m sure. I don’t think anyone could prepare themselves to lose something we use 24/7 and take for granted, whether you’re expecting it or not.

  2. Hi Rachel,
    I got your link from Annette. I haven’t had a chance but will listen to your podcast. She featured me back in June. She is a great promotor of writers and talented herself. I look forward to following and learning from your post. HUGS

    1. Hi Chuck, thanks for stopping by! I’ll be sure to give your podcast a listen to as well. And I agree, Annette is wonderful!
      I look forward to keeping in touch. 🙂

  3. Food for thought. A great post. Thank you.

    I am currently writing about a character who has lost his right hand, and has to learn to use his left, and also to do things with only one hand. I have tried to emulate this by ignoring my own right hand. It’s extremely difficult. My character also suffers from the inevitable depression.

    1. You know, I never thought of that. I tried to think of something to lose your sense of “touch,” but that’s an interesting way to twist things around. It really is hard to do things with your non-dominant hand. Good luck!
      Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

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