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Stronger Writing: Use Your (Characters’) Senses!

Cartoon image of a woman with red hair, surrounded by images of a human hand, blue eye, mouth, nose, and ear to illustrate the five sensesIf you’ve been writing fiction for more than, oh, about twenty minutes, you’ve no doubt been advised to use at least three of the five senses to bring your prose to life. Most narrative describes what the characters see and hear, but adding smell, taste, or sensation can enrich the sense of place and elevate the reading experience.

Not all sensory information is created equal, of course. The best sensory information comes straight from the character’s experience to the reader’s experience. It comes from within the character’s point of view. Weak sensory information comes from a step outside the character’s point of view.

How Do I Know if my Sensory Information is Strong or Weak?

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One Stop for Writers

The creators of The Emotion Thesaurus and Writers Helping Writers are collaborating with one of the talented developers of Scrivener to bring you a one-stop writer's library experience like no other. If you're a writer, and you're not already aware of one…

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Editor’s Corner

More wisdom from Carol Fisher Saller, whose keynote speech at the EAC Conference in June made me realize that grammar isn't something fixed and rigid, that you study once and are done forever.

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Stronger Writing: Starts, Beginnings, and Promises Made

Image of a portion of a reddish brown running track with painted lane divisions crossed by a perpendicular line with All writers are familiar with the aphorism “Finish What You Start”. It’s good advice. You can’t sell a story that’s not finished. Writers finish things.

But this post isn’t about that kind of starting and finishing.

This post is about starts and beginnings in action and dialogue: what they are, what they do, and how to use them to serve the story.

Let’s start with these pairs of sentences:

  • Louise smiled and began to walk away from me.
  • Louise smiled and walked away from me.
  • Ben grimaced and started unloading the dishwasher.
  • Ben grimaced and unloaded the dishwasher.
  • The queen began to rise from her throne.
  • The queen rose from her throne.

Do you see the difference? In each pair, the first sentence emphasizes the start of an action, whereas the second emphasizes the action itself.

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