Ah, Autumn: Using the Senses for a Season of Writing

Red-striped Leaf © Ann M. LynnWhere I live, reds are bleeding into trees and vivid yellow leaves hide under their green kin. Soon the changing leaves will fall to rustle under foot. On seemingly random days, the air outside chills as warning of the upcoming snowy month. Spicy scents drift through grocery and department stores alike.

This is a perfect time to add to sense memory.

Sense memory is the stored information from our physical senses: hearing, sight, taste/smell, and touch. Often a remembered sense ties to an emotion or emotional memory. Possibly the most common example of this is the smell of fresh-baked cookies evoking the memory of a grandmother.

Actors use sense memory to add depth, or realism, to a scene during rehearsals. Writers can use it, too.

In writing, a scene may engage readers (or the writer) better if the characters seem to use more of their senses than just limited sight and hearing. Most animals, including humans, rely also on smell and touch every day.

Everyone relies on the full range of available senses to determine which situations are safe, or acceptable, and which aren’t. That means a reader may think a story isn’t acceptable if their senses are taken away during visits to the story’s world. And that’s bad.

To include the details that make a story world real, a writer can use sense memory in conjunction with imagination. The writer’s memories, then, act as solid blocks on which imagination may rest.

To add to sense memory, one must focus on the physical feeling of real settings–in both ordinary and extraordinary situations. Taking the time to note how a breeze feels on exposed skin or how muscles and tendons pull against a broken bone means that if or when the situation happens to a character, one can pull the details from memory, often a quicker and more reliable process than using imagination.

So, take the changing of the seasons as a reminder. Immerse yourself in your everyday world. Be in each moment.

Help yourself, and your readers, sink deeper into the worlds of your stories.

~ ~ ~

What Autumn sounds, sights, tastes, scents, or textures do you enjoy the most?


4 thoughts on “Ah, Autumn: Using the Senses for a Season of Writing”

  1. Autumn is my favourite time of year. I love the cool fall air. I love driving down the road and catching the leaves just as they are beginning to change. Last year I watched each day as wild geese flew overheard. Autumn reminds me of the smell of pencils and crayons and coming home from school with the smell tumeric and pickling spice in the kitchen…I’m almost certain, that for me, Autumn evokes the most memories.

    Thank you for this post!

  2. Welcome, Deb! And thank you for the nice compliment.

    I thought I’d seen your blog sometime. Do you still have one?

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