Writing Tip — Writing with Senses: Writing about the Sense of Touch

handsw-2667461_1280In the story “The Price of Light”, author Ellis Peters brings medieval England to life through the senses, and especially through texture.

Once I sat down to analyze touch, I realized it encompasses many different kinds of sensation.


Not only clothes, but everything we touch has some kind of texture, if we think about it. The table I’m eating on, the chair I’m sitting on, the jacket of the woman I brush up against in a crowded mall, the goop my kid just invented in the basement. If the point of view (POV) character is touching something, I can switch from sight to touch to give my description variety.

I’m sensitive to food textures. Regardless of how a food tastes, if the texture triggers my gag reflex, I’m done with it. In fact, I will soldier through food that doesn’t taste good but can’t choke it down if the texture is bad. Marshmallows and meringue are two foods with textures I literally can’t swallow.


The temperature and moisture of the air around us is sensed through our skin. So instead of limiting myself to how a snowy scene looks, I will add how the cold makes my POV character feel. Humidity can be described the same way. Instead of writing how the sweat glistens on someone’s face, I will write about how humidity wraps around my skin like a wet quilt. When describing wind, I can switch to how it feels, rather than the effects the character sees or hears.


Pressure on the skin signals all kinds of emotions. If you want large man to intimidate your small main character, he can press against her, crowding her, trapping her. A squeeze of the hand can mean reassurance, a slap on the back affection or anger, a handshake, depending upon the strength, friendship or fury.

I know I haven’t exhausted the possibilities. How would you write about the sense of touch?

4 thoughts on “Writing Tip — Writing with Senses: Writing about the Sense of Touch

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  1. As a person who’s gone blind in my early 20s, i feel like i have a lot to say on this topic – seeing that i see things through touch – but alas, i can’t think of one good thing to say…. but i do know after i hit send and move on, i’m going to slap my forehead and say, why didn’t i think of that!

      1. Well, people think i have better hearing or an extra sense for things, but it’s really a good perception of surroundings. For one, i can tell if the room i’m in is big or small, if there’s something in front or beside me – all from air displacement and sound movement. I can tell if the person talking to me is looking at me or to the side – also by the way the sound moves – if that person is standing or sitting….. there’s probably more, and maybe people who were born blind have a sharper perception than i do – since they went to blind school and all. Not sure though.

  2. I have trouble following sound. So I find it fascinating that you can tell so much about your environment by how the sound moves. I will have to remember that if I have a sight-impaired character or if one is trying to move in the dark.

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