Bringing your setting alive is often a matter of including true-to-life details. But they have to be more than realistic. They have to be real.
What are the things that you would notice if you were there vs if you simply researched your setting? I contemplated this last weekend as I took part in my first Pickle Making Party. Simply put, three days of rain led to rapidly growing, monster cucumbers. No one wants to eat one cucumber that big let alone 35 pounds of huge cukes. So we pickled. This was my first time making pickles and I drank in the details.
The good thing is that there details don’t have to go into your first draft. Or your second draft. There are the kinds of details that you can add into draft three or five. When you have a few minutes, take a look at one page of your story. If you don’t have three sensory details on that page, add one or two or even three. And mix things up. These should all be sights. Go for the more difficult touch and motion.
To show you how, I will brain storm sensory details for five minutes.
Sight: Dark green peels. Feathery dill. Ivory garlic. White cucumber flesh. Shiny pepper flakes. Billowing steam.
Smell: The tang of vinegar. Pungent garlic. The freshness of orange (someone had a snack).
Sound: The swish of water going into a pot. Bubbling. The purr of the dishwasher. The hum of the exhaust fan. The clang of the pot lid. Hissing pressure cooker.
Taste: The tang of the brine. Mellow cucumber. The bite of garlic. The green taste of dill. Yes, to me dill tastes green!
Touch: Rubbery cucumber flesh. Prickly cucumbers straight off the vine. Papery garlic skin. Lava hot jars. Cool tap water.
Motion: The whirlpool motion as you stir the brine. The subtle motion as the lid is sucked down and seals. Billows and swirling of steam.
Not great but I got this many in five minutes. What could you come up with if you only had to think of three?