Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Feel Of You

I think I'm a more visual writer than anything else. I mean, I know you're supposed to include all the senses - how things taste and feel and sound and smell, etc. But I've never found any of these senses quite as interesting as how things look.

Like the raven's wing colour of his hair, as it lays in long silky strands over the nape of his neck - that sort of thing. I like to see things, as though my books are movies and I'm directing them for me.

Of course, the look of something often leads me to the other senses. I mean, once you've got the image of the raven's wing hair in your mind's eye, it's hard not to wonder how it feels. Soft? Almost slippery? And how does it smell?

Like some mystical forest that doesn't exist, I like to imagine.

Of course, it's kind of hard to progress to the other senses once you've gotten this far, because really, who wants to taste hair? And you can't listen to it. I mean, you might be able to hear it running through your fingers - some slight shushering sort of sound - but once you've explained how it looks and feels and smells, going into the noises it makes might be just a touch of overkill.

Though going on to talk about the skin that leads down from that delicious hair probably wouldn't be. I don't know about you, but I'm already wondering what that skin tastes like. Salty, probably, and with just a hint of copper. That's the actual way real skin tastes. And yet when I think about this imaginary man, the word that comes to mind is cool.

He tastes cool. Like mint, only not mint. Like having a mouth full of air, that's what I think, which probably makes no sense at all. In fact, when I really consider, most of my descriptions of various things are just a little bit odd.

I mean, people don't really taste like air. And hair doesn't really shusher. Ribs don't look like unearthed dinosaur bones and skin doesn't stand out like a January sky. Yet I've used all of these descriptions in my writing, and they still evoke the same feeling in me. I can still see and feel the texture of this man clearly, whenever I think of that strange collection of words.

Of ancient bones and winterscapes, of ravens and the taste of air.

Somehow such things make a character more real to me than real people actually are. I can't remember the face of my old boss from so and so, and I don't know some person's name when they approach me on the street and ask me to recollect. But I think about these descriptions, these textures, and suddenly I'm right back in the middle of the fantasy world I wrote about ten years ago, with that same man sprawled on his front, in the glow of candlelight.

It's not just real textures that take you back. It's imaginary ones, too. And they've layered my life as effectively as anything I've actually touched, tasted, smelt, heard, seen. Moreso, in truth.

I still think about his raven's wing hair, and wonder what he's doing, now.


  1. Very nice! I understnad how those details can take you right back into the fantasy world you've created.

  2. I love this, Charlotte.

    I was thinking about metaphors when I was writing my piece. You can't really describe sensory impressions directly. You have suggest what they remind you of, what they bring to mind. In some cases, that might be comparisons that you don't mean literally, like a mouthful of air or skin like January sky. That's fine, if those notions evoke emotions in the reader that approximate what you as the writer feels.

    I think it's a bit like poetry. The words are not intended to be taken at face value, but rather, to weave a web of feeling and remembrance that captures an elusive, indescribable moment.

  3. This is a brilliant look at memory, even the memory of imagined sensory experience.

  4. Kathleen- glad it's not that I'm just bonkers.

    Lisabet- Yeah, exactly! It's not enough to say "it looks round". Loads of things look round. How does it make you feel?

    Jean- aw, thanks!


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