Whether I’m writing fiction or nonfiction, I try to remember to bring sensory perception into play. It is one of the best ways that I know to pull my reader in.
The hard part is working in a variety of perceptions. The easiest ones are sight and sound. How does the sun look glinting off the surface of the ocean? How do the waves sound lapping against the sides of the ship? Easy peasy.
But the rule of thumb that I use is to work in three perceptions per page. The tricky part is that if I count sense of sight once, I can’t count it again. The same goes for sound. That means that I have to work in smell, taste, or touch/motion.
Take the ocean scene for example. You might think that a scent would be easy to work in and it might be for you. But in general I detest the way the ocean smells. It could be that oceanside areas tend to be humid and a bit moldy. Mold steps up my allergies and triggers my asthma. It could be my cranky imagination but I would swear that the ocean smell like fish poo.
Given the number of people who love the ocean, I should probably give that opinion and detail a miss. I could include the scent of sunscreen. Or the rise and fall of a boat on the waves. That would get me up to four. Personally, I think that taste is the trickiest one to work in.
Sensory perceptions work so well at pulling the reader in because they make things feel real. Think about it. Take a moment to relax with your eyes closed. What do you hear? I can hear water running. And tree frogs outside. What do you smell? I smell Simply Green cleaner and rain. For a sense of touch, the air is chilly.
Weave sensory details into your writing. It will make it feel real and concrete for your reader. Even if you think the ocean smells like fish poo.