As an author I try to improve on my writing all the time. When my editors point out something I’ve done extremely well, I try to see where else it might apply. Since I write fiction, I often take my readers to places that don’t exist, but are (hopefully) still vivid enough or familiar to them that they don’t have to wonder, ‘are we there, yet?’
One example of something the editors liked was Dr. Coren’s experience of touching the alien gel, and being disgusted by its slimy texture and warmth. (Martian Blues, p157) It looked nasty, it felt nasty, and it caused feelings of revulsion.
One thing I’m trying to be more aware of is the use of as many senses as possible in more important scenes. Telling you my coffee is wet and cooling fast is just silly. Telling you the warmth takes the cold edge off my fingertips, but there’s an odd gritty texture to the dark liquid dotted with oily bits left over from a previous beverage is far more engaging, if not exactly appealing.
Sometimes less is more, and the lack of detail isn’t noticed…until later. I recently read a book that was engaging at the time, but upon mentally reviewing it later, I realized both sound (aside from dialogue) and smell had been ignored throughout the novel. As a musician, it was the lack of background noises I noticed first, but I nearly missed noticing the lack of aroma.
We tend to write in much the same way that we perceive the world. I have an almost non-existant sense of smell, and what I can detect is often not nice. Florals seem mostly bad, especially one of the newer spray products that’s come out. Food flavorings seem mostly okay, while many people overdo perfume and seem to ignore unscented deodorant. Consequently, few characters in my novels have any detectable odor…but they do love their coffee.
I don’t write about cold, wet places. For me, cold is not a temperature, it’s pain. I think it’s a result of the hip surgery when I was two–I can’t remember a time when cold was not painful. As soon as I can afford it, I’m moving to a warm climate (I’m not there yet) but cold will never get a positive treatment in my writing. It may at some point play the villain.
What your characters see is what your readers will see. I don’t remember the name of the TV show, just that it’s an old one, where an older being was instructing a younger character on creating a world. When everything above the ground was white, the older one asked, “where’s the sky?” There will always be at least one reader asking that if you don’t write it in.
I don’t know if the universe really does smell like beef, but did they happen to hear a sizzling sound?
Thanks for reading. 🙂
Phyllis K Twombly