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Describing the 5 Senses: Part 1

By: Angelique Caffrey - Updated: 17 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Creative Writer; Creative Author; Taste;

Taste. Touch. Sight. Sound. Smell. These elements make up the foundation of the five senses so critical to any memorable creative work.

Whether you're writing for an audience of one or a readership of ten-thousand or more, you undoubtedly need to develop a convincing way of describing at least one (and usually more) of the aforementioned sense "quintuplets."

Below, we've amassed a few pointers to help you masterfully capture the essence of each sense in an effort to boost your writing proficiency and comfort level.


When you hear about this sense, what's the first thing that comes to mind? If you're like most people, it's food.

Without a doubt, the act of purchasing (or hunting), preparing and eating foodstuff is a social experience to which every human being can relate; as such, it's strongly tied to memories, both positive and negative.

For instance, the warm, rich odour of fresh coffee could remind you of your Italian grandmother who headed straight to the carafe for some strong brew in the morning. Alternatively, the spicy tang of wasabi might take you back to an unpleasant first (and last) date which occurred at a popular sushi bar.

However, food is not all that we "taste." For instance, have you ever "tasted" a smell? The two senses of taste and smell are closely linked; hence, a very pungent aroma, such as that of a burning wood pile or heavy railcar emissions can seem to linger on the tongue as well as in the nostrils.

As an author, it's imperative that you use this sense whenever it will enhance your listeners' or readers' experiences. Be bold and use uncommon terms such as "brooding" and "angry", adjectives not usually applied to "taste", but which can be powerful in the correct context.


Right now, various parts of your body are touching items such as clothing, a desk, your keyboard or mouse, or a drink. But because these objects are so comfortably "everyday", you may neglect to notice how they feel.

To ratchet up your ability to hone in on and skillfully describe how something feels to the touch, you can undergo a couple of simple, but meaningful, exercises.

First, turn off the lights in a familiar room and just move (cautiously, of course!) from one common object to another. Take your time and note the texture, temperature and consistency of furniture, bedding, books, newspapers, or even your computer. After you turn the light back on, take a few minutes to write down any thoughts that came to mind during your experiment.

The second technique you can use to "get in touch with touch" is to have someone put a number of small objects into a paper bag or box. (As a side note, kids usually enjoy helping with this exercise and may just request it be done again and again!) With or without a blindfold, reach into the bag or box and try to figure out what each item is before removing it. This method of forcing yourself to describe regular items (a thimble, a spoon, a stick of chewing gum) can help you think of innovative ways to help your audience "touch" what your characters are physically feeling.

Continue reading about how to effectively describe the 5 senses.

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