My First YA Highway RTW Post!

I’m very excited to participate in Road Trip Wednesday. I’ve been reading YA Highway for a while now and have never been a part of the fun. But! Now I have a blog! What glee! I can join the party! (Look! I just might have a poetic bone in my body somewhere.)

The topic this week: “The Five Senses. How you use them in your writing, how you are inspired by them, pictorial essays, that character with smelly socks, books that have used them well, the ones that are currently missing from your work, etc.”

I have a two-part answer for your reading pleasure.

First: incorporating the senses into your writing helps give a reader become immersed in the world of your story. That lovely feeling you get when you’re reading and your dog barks next to you and you nearly have an aneurism because you forgot you even have a dog because the protag in the book doesn’t have a dog. (Don’t you just love that feeling?) That’s what you want your readers to experience. But senses can do even more than flesh out the world. Which leads me to…

Second: The other night I read through my notes from my last residency for school. One of the topics my professor touched on was setting and using it as a tool. So, setting = sensory information. (See what I did there?) Bart (the incomparable Marlin Barton–check him out!) suggested this: use what a character notices around him (by any of the five senses!) to reflect how he’s feeling or to reflect the tension in a scene. So, if your character is having an argument with his mother, he could notice how a mosquito keeps buzzing in his ear and it’s really, really annoying! Or, let’s say your protag just learned her mother died (what’s my hang-up with moms today?) and she’s at the park. She could hear a whipporwill call and reflect how sad its song is. What your characters notice externally–what they sense–can illuminate what they’re feeling.

It can also add to suspense. A novel that does this brilliantly is Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I recently re-read the book and I was amazed at how well she added to the suspense just by the lonely sound of the distant beach or the too-bright blood-red rhododendrons outside the window. I highly recommend you give it a read!

So, next time you’re engrossed in your scene, think: how can I include various sensory details to engross my reader as well; and: how can I have that sensory information perform two jobs (texture and characterization).

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I write speculative fiction inspired by mythos from around the world, complex family dynamics, and my own experiences living with mental illness. After earning my BA in Linguistics from Brigham Young University in 2008, I received my MFA in Creative Writing from Converse College in 2012. I live in Denver, where my husband and I spend countless hours chasing our three young sons (and sometimes catching them!). I collect tarot decks, dye my hair mermaid colors, and procrastinate by decorating my home. My debut novel, Feathers Sharp as Knives, releases on May 2, 2023.

10 thoughts on “My First YA Highway RTW Post!

  1. This is excellent instruction! Now that I read it, I recognize the device from many of my favorite stories. Songs, especially, are calendar posts in my life. I can hear 2-3 chords from certain songs and I fly into the past, sometimes 40 years or more, and I can see what I saw, hear what I heard, occassionally smell what I smelled, but always, always feel what I feeled. (jk) felt. Great post KAW!

  2. I completely agree. A character won’t notice all five senses every time he or she describes something. And a sense may also be good or bad based on the character’s mood. Say she’s in love with her boyfriend in one scene, the scent of his deodorant might be calming and make her want to kiss him. When he cheats on her (inevitably with her best friend), catching a whiff of that deodorant might make her stomach churn or make her want to punch him in the face.

    And welcome to RTW!!

    1. “catching a whiff of that deodorant might make her stomach churn or make her want to punch him in the face.”

      Especially if that deodorant is Old Spice. ^_^ Thanks for visiting my blog!

  3. Welcome to the RTW convoy! I haven’t read Rebecca in a long time–might have to go back and read it again. Frenchman’s Creek was always my favorite by her, and it has a lot to do with the setting as a character.

    1. I didn’t know Du Maurier had written any other books except Jamaica Inn, which I just learned about. I’ll have to add Frenchman’s Creek to my TBR list. Thanks!

    1. Thanks! I did what I could with the themes available. It’s nothing like your eye-candy-of-a-blog (that sounded weird). You may be new at photography, but you have a great eye!

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