The resulting painting being pictured is one that is conflicted; familiar, yet oddly distant.
“Rather than writing about what something sounds like, you can instead write about what the sound feels like as it reverberates off the inner ear (is the sound heavy or light?), or what types of tastes the sound would be if it were a taste (is it a sweet sound or a bitter one?), or who is more likely to recognize the sound (the sparrow’s familiar chirping), or what colors the sound would be if funneled through a spectrum (what does a morning blue sound like anyway?), or how fast or slow the sound is traveling (the crawl of this city’s buzz).”
Anyway, instead of colors you use words, and your composition will be guided by, and made pleasing through, the senses.
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When we look at amateur writers who attempt to describe a scene, there’s a clear pattern they try and follow. It goes something like this:
How can we write better? How do we create more vivid, unique, and enticing pictures in our stories?
When you look at the senses and contextual aspects to describe a scene — by combining them uniquely — you’re much more likely to paint a picture that is both captivating and oddly familiar. Sometimes beautifully so.
Like painting: everyone has their own unique style. If this approach doesn’t resonate for you, do what all the great artists do and find your own style. The only way to do that? Make 10,000 strokes (or words).
I stepped out my cabin door and drew in a breath of cool spring evening air sweet with the scents of wild honey suckle and the pines that towered around me. Night sounds serenaded, crickets and, more distant, evening frogs, and a night bird or two. The sky was clear above me, just that deep shade of twilight that isnt yet midnight blue but not quite cobalt any more, and already sprinkled with a few early stars out shone by the brilliant northern star over my head. The faintest of breezes began to rustle through the already dark pine woods just then carrying a stronger scent of pine and acrid earthy scent of decaying pine needles. And, though the sky was yet clear, the breeze also carried the sharp scent of rain. I expected clouds would soon move in.
“The air was crisp and cool, biting through her jacket with thrashing winds. There was a unique smell to it all, the sunset setting behind the scene, just above the city. Everything glowed orange, like the embers of a fire.”
Clearly these writers are attempting to create a vivid picture of what it is they’re describing. They try to call universal analogies like “the color of fire” or “crisp air” in order to empower readers imaginations; to paint a picture.
Create universes — and the people, places, and things within them — with your own digital smart notebook.
It’s easy to go overboard with this approach of course, but if you explore it carefully you’ll develop situations that we each subconsciously can recognize without finding them overly boring.
My favorite example is of describing a sound. I explain in my blog post:
I love comparing painting and writing, since I do both and I see a lot of parallels between the two. For example, you can overwork both art forms, and the result is drab and muddy.
You can lump all your sensory information in one place if you’d like, but it’s often fun and interesting to use it to embellish action, dialogue, and all that other good stuff.
In writing, you have access to a lot more senses than people think about. Yes, there is absolutely sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch, and sense of balance and/or sense of place and time (kinesthetic sense.) But you also get visceral changes (body changes) to go with that, as well as emotional states.
Not too bad, right? But the problem with this format is that it’s often boring or overly exaggerated. This writing style is often not just boring, it’s bland, expected, or not very creative.
I explained a process I use for this in my blog post: Use this combinatorial question equation if you want to be more curious.
Instead of describing the feeling of the air in a scene, describe the age of the air…is it new air or old, how does its age reflect how it feels? What about the smell of the air, how does that affect its temperature? If I say the air smelled “of bread bakers who have just awoken to stoke the fires of their ovens” do you get feelings of warmth or cold? Does it give you a positional context as to where the story is taking place? Can you not only feel the air but smell it now too? It’s warm and inviting, isn’t it? Makes me hungry.
It basically goes like this: focus on not only senses, but the five Ws: Who, what, where, when, and why. Mixing and matching each at your leisure.