Monday, July 13, 2009

Serching for Sensory Details

I've noticed that writers are often travelers. And I once read that a large proportion of writers have lived in more than one country during their lives. Something about being displaced forces one to write, perhaps? Or is that these writers have absorbed two different cultures, two different settings, so creating new worlds comes easily for them. The more sensory details you add to your repertoire, the more those will pour out in your writing.

It's not easy writing in a vacuum. You can create a description of a place you've never been, but often the details are missing--the sounds, the smells. Visuals you can recreate from reference photos, but the essence is missing if you haven't walked the streets, sniffed the air, tasted the food, heard the cadence of the language, or danced to the beat of the music.

Maybe that's why they often say "write what you know." The only way to truly capture the whole experience on paper is to experience it for yourself. So much of writing is sitting at a computer and typing in words. But if that isn't balanced by sensory stimuli, a key component may be missing from your page. So push yourself away from your desk regularly and get out into the world. You'll not only come back refreshed, but you'll return with plenty of new details to add to your story world.

1 comment:

Cate Masters said...

I disagree with the "write what you know" credo. With research, you can glean what you need to create a realistic world, whether contemporary or historical. It all depends on the writer, and is in the translation from head to paper. My stories would be pretty redundant if I had to rely on my few travel experiences!