Sensory Details Pulls Your Readers In

How does it feel to move through the water alongside other swimmers? My character could tell you. (Koi, Missouri Botanical Garden, photo by Sue Bradford Edwards)

This week I am blogging about the revision retreat led by Darcy Pattison.

One of the things that we took a very close look at was sensory detail.  Specifics are what pull a reader into our stories.  They paint the images in our readers minds.

I thought that I’d done a good job after all I had several details per page.  Granted, most of them were sight and sound but I had also worked in touch and smell where appropriate — describing the feel of the concrete pool deck and the scent of heavily chlorinated water.  As we discussed sensory detail, Darcy pointed out that her stories tend to be heavy on sound details and then sight because those are the things that she personally focuses on in the world around her.

That made sense to me.  I’m a highly visual person but I also have a keen sense of smell and I love music. Those are the three senses that I work most easily into a story.

And then it hit me.  My character is a super active 12-year-old boy.  He is a swimmer and he’s all about movement.  I know I worked in tactile details, but I have to work in a whole lot more about how it feels to get from point a to point b.

When you look for the use of details in your story, give it some thought.  Are these the details your character would notice?  If not, you’ve got some work to do.