I wrote a little while ago about the five senses which are so important to consider when writing – well, I think it is. I still have a slight problem with the sound advice of ‘show don’t tell’ – I still sink into the telling mode rather than the showing mode. However, since I know I’m not good on this, I always go through my stories and without going overboard, see if I can enhance what I’ve written by cutting out one and subtly inserting the other.  When I was waffling on about the five senses, touch, smell, sight, sound, taste, I added another which is rather imposingly called thermoception – temperature!

How can temperature enhance a description, or add  tension and drama to a narrative, or in a sort of pathetic fallacy way reflect (or the opposite) what is happening to the characters. As I wrote this sentence I thought back to the Thomas Hardy novel, Return of the Native which we had to plough through for A-level. I confess I’m not a great fan of Hardy, although I do really love aspects of his novels – it’s the feeling of misery and tragedy which I’m often left with when i close the book. There is enough misery and tragedy in the real world without enduring t in the fictional! back to Return of the Native, in a particularity tragic scene where Eustacia’s innocent actions cause the death of Mrs Yeobright, the part that the summer plays in the events add to the drama. Mrs Yeobright who is not a sympathetic character, decides, on a scorchingly hot day, to try and make amends to her son and walks across across the heath (in all the heavy clothes worn in Victorian times) The older woman arrives at the  house, and knocks – but her son is asleep and Eustacia, his wife, not wanting to meet her mother-in-law, rushes out into the back garden. Mrs Yeobright begins to return home through the overpowering heat; she sits down to take a rest and is bitten by an adder… with fatal consequences. The thing I remember about this tragic scene is the overwhelming weather – summer and sunshine which should be so optimistic and good and health-giving, contribute to the tragic death of a woman who was trying to do her best.

In the article I read which first introduced me to this idea of extra senses there were other ideas which we could use as writers –

  • equillibrioception – the sense of balance. This might be an internal or mental balance, a characters actions altered by some emotional upset or crisis. It could, however also be balance impacting literally on events – for example, a wobbly bridge, a fall, a dizzy spell, a precarious mountain path to be traversed…
  • nociception  – the sense of physical pain or discomfort – I guess this could also be mental or emotional pain – and sometimes emotional pain can be physical! I’m sure this has come into most stories at some point! The effect of pain and discomfort can certainly imapct on a person’s mental or emotional well-being – and in a story this can be a trigger for many different narratives!
  • proprioception – the ability to know where our limbs are, even if we are in the dark or can’t see them; this may not be something used very often, but think of all the psychological thrillers based on people being trapped in dark places!

I’m glad I’ve reminded myself of these… I’m getting to a crucial part of my next Radwinter novel, and some of these senses might well find their way into the story!!

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