This month I am focusing on how to maximize the senses in your writing. So my Monday sparks will have pictures to encourage you to describe a scene using all five senses.
Whether you have directly experienced a setting, or imaging a character in one, it helps to make a list of what your character is sensing. Then you can work those observations into a paragraph and the fabric of the story.
I think there is a family out on the ice. The group of four are a mother and father one the right and their two high school or college age kids on the left. The person farthest on the left, who appears to be testing the ice, will be my point of view (POV) character.
I say he is a teenage boy. What would he be sensing in this situation?
Sight: The glare of the sun on the snow. The contrast between the white snow and the stark black outlines of the trees.
Sound: They appear to be out in the country, so the pond could be quiet. A light breeze making the bare branches creak.
Smell: I have a terrible sense of smell and in a cold environment, I wouldn’t smell anything. But in this scene, a fire could be burning on the short. The strong, comforting smell of burning wood drifting through the air.
Taste: The smokey air could have a taste to it. If it starts to snow, my character could taste the snow on his tongue. After the family talks out on the ice, they could prepare food over the fire, bitter coffee, sweet marshmallows.
Touch: The cold air on exposed skin. If the air is really cold, it can burn in his nose and down his lungs, putting pressure on his chest. Some part of his outfit, a scarf or hat scratching his skin. The pressure of his foot as he presses it against the icy surface of the pond.
Now that I have my sensory experiences listed, I will plug in a few at a time as the scene unfolds.
Now it’s your turn. Who are you in this scene? What are you experiencing? And if you you know what the person is doing on the far right, please tell me!
Last year, I had a post at the beginning of each month describing how you could use the month as a setting. This year, I will focus on one aspect of each month. So to kick things off in January, I will explore New Year’s Day as writing inspiration.
One superstitions I always remember about New Year’s Day is first-footing, a belief, which according to Wikipedia, comes from Scotland and Northern England. The first person to enter a home on New Year’s Day will bring either good or bad luck in the coming year, depending upon such things as gender and appearance. A tall man with dark hair is considered good luck. Agatha Christie uses this superstition to help solve a ten-year-old death in the short story, “The Coming of Mr. Quin” in the book The Mysterious Mr. Quin.
Old Year/New Year
In the fantasy short story “Deadline”, found in the book Haunts, Haunts, Haunts, Richard Matheson provides a reason behind the idea of the old year personified as an old man and the new year as a baby with tragic results. The personification could also work for a happier or humorous story. A short story where the old man briefs his replacement on what to expect during the course of his job would be very funny.
In Ohio, the retirement of legendary college football coach Urban Meyer has been all over the news. His last game was a bowl game on New Year’s Day. The date is fitting for a retirement and would work for any story about a football coach who is leaving his profession. Or for anybody who is leaving a job on that day.
New Year’s Day resolutions can kickstart many plots. They can be the reasons a character changes for better of worse. A comic competition can start between two friends or two relatives who challenge each other with the same resolution. Using resolutions works best if you begin the story on New Year’s Day, track your characters over a year, and wind up on the next New Year’s Day.
How can you use New Year’s Day as writing inspiration?
What resolutions are your thinking about this New Year’s Day? My top writing resolution is to keep up on my journal of family events. I forget to do it daily and then when I remember, I have more than a week to try to recall. Another writing resolutions is to get a flash fiction story published by Havok Publishing.