Writing All Five Senses

I have to write a 500-750 word piece invoking all five senses, for my writing group next month.  Actually, I suggested this task.  Was I mad?

Primroses, yellow and pinkIt is considered good practice to reference all five senses in most pieces of writing, but it’s not easy.  Consider, for instance, the primroses in my garden.  I can wax lyrical about pale yellow and pale pink petals, but how do I get you to visualise them, Dear Reader? Giving you the photo is cheating on my part.  Whoever said a picture is worth a thousand words was all too right.  I could liken them to rhubarb and custard perhaps?   No, no, you’re laughing now.  Clearly,  I haven’t struck the right note.

Cup of teaLet’s start again.  Take my cup of tea.  I can do all five senses with my cup of tea:Cup of Tea With Bubbles Around the edge.

Sight –  The mid-brown colour shows that it’s a nice strong brew.  When I poured the milk into the cup, for a moment, it circled around in white swirls.  Also, do you see the bubbles around the edge of the mug?

Sound – Gurgling of the kettle, the clink-clink of crockery,  welcome and reassuring sounds.  Tea, in particular, has emotional connotations.  Tea and sympathy.  Everything stops for tea.  There’s nothing that can’t be solved with a cup of tea.

Feel – Hot, cold or luke-warm.  Wet.

Taste – Bitter, lingering on my tongue, or milky and insipid.

Smell – Although finer varieties of tea do have an aroma, bog-standard, red label, tea has hardly any fragrance, although the drinker will feel steam rising up around his/her face.

Not much to say about tea, then?  Actually, in my opinion, there’s enough – for a mere cup of tea.

I find it easier to describe something that’s been done badly, or inappropriately.  I could rant about tea made with not-quite-boiling water, drawing attention to its grey colour, and likening its feel to a dirty dishcloth.  Or make you sweat by making you read about tea being served on a beach during a heat wave.

For me, the terrible describer, a mental senses checklist is a helpful prompt.  The point of descriptions is to bring a scene, a setting or an object to life for the reader, so it makes sense to address all his/her faculties.

Have a good week.  Term starts tomorrow and I’m exhausted just thinking about it.  I could attempt to describe tiredness but I haven’t got the energy to do it.


5 thoughts on “Writing All Five Senses

  1. An interesting exercise, but in most cases I think working all five senses into a single description is probably slightly overdoing it.

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