By Lynn McPherson
With Thanksgiving just days away, it’s time to kick off the holiday season. As I opened up all the boxes with lights and decorations, my festive feelings were thrown into high gear with just one whiff of a gingerbread-scented candle.
It was a great reminder of the importance of using all five senses in writing. Let’s look at how much of a difference it can make if a writer incorporates more than just what the eye can see. I thought we could use a Thanksgiving setting as our demonstration…
What could be the highlights of a Thanksgiving meal, if we were restricted to the sense of sight: a big turkey, decorative pine cones, family gathered together, a festive tree, sparking lights, a dimmed room with a roaring fire. Now, add in the smell of turkey cooking in the oven. And the scent of fresh pine of a crisp after-dinner walk. Doesn’t that start to bring the scene alive? How about the murmur of happy chatter and the warmth emanating from the fire? With the addition of sound, smell, and touch, the reader is given a fuller experience—perhaps even initiating their own memories of holidays past. Without this, the scene may seem hollow—and that’s never good when you’re trying to entice the reader into your character’s world.
How about if we switch the scenario to a busy city street? Other than the sights around, there might be a pungent smell of a passing garbage truck, the loud honking of nearby taxis, or the firm brush of hurried passersby. Another example could be a busy coffee shop. Look around next time you’re in one—think about what’s happening. Would you miss the buzzing of friendly chatter? The grinding sounds of a coffee maker preparing to serve fresh brew? And the delicious smell of fresh brew. All these things can help the readers set their imagination in motion. This is particularly important at the beginning when you want to hook the reader.
So as you unpack your ornaments and prepare your festive dinner, let it be a reminder to be aware of all the wonderful sensations the holiday season has to offer and to enjoy each one.
I wish everyone a happy and healthy Thanksgiving weekend. May you have the chance to see your loved ones and curl up in front of the fire with a good mystery—I know that’s what I’ll be doing…
Lynn McPherson has worked for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, ran a small business, and taught English across the globe. She has travelled the world solo where her daring spirit has led her to jump out of airplanes, dive with sharks, and learn she would never master a surfboard. She now channels her lifelong love of adventure and history into her writing, where she is free to go anywhere, anytime. Her cozy series has three books out: The Girls' Weekend Murder and The Girls Whispered Murder, and The Girls Dressed For Murder.