When I first began writing, I blogged a lot about the craft of writing and my thoughts on writing, pretty much as I went along. One series of posts I did almost ten years ago was on using the senses in writing romance. Since I’m once again looking through the writer’s eye at the craft of writing, I thought I’d revisit these posts over the next few weeks, look at them with a more experienced eye and revise as the need arises.
First, the senses are channels of communication, including sound. Each time we hear a sound, we are receiving information about something. Even the way information is presented sends messages. So hearing is a major way that we communicate.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m writing, I see the story unfold like it was a movie spooling out of my mind. And one thing all movies have is a soundtrack to provide the sounds: the whistling of the wind, the revving of an engine, the squeaky creak of a door to a spooky house. Your novel won’t have such a soundtrack, unless you provide it with your words. Put succinctly by Orly Konig-Lopez in her article for Writers in the Storm, “When writing, you have to put those sounds into words. Your reader needs to hear what your characters are experiencing.” You don’t want your characters to seem to be living in a vacuum devoid of sound. I read somewhere that after the original Star Trek series premiered, they decided to add the “whoosh” into the soundtrack of the opening whenever the Enterprise would zip by. They said that of course there wouldn’t be sound in space, but people would naturally expect a sound, so they added it.
Add those sounds to your scenes! Your readers will be pulled into the work because of it.
Next, use paralanguage to make your dialogue pop. Paralanguage is all the sounds we hear connected to language other than the words themselves. Using these elements—vocal fillers, pitch, tone, rate, volume, inflection—you can give a complete picture of how the characters sound when they speak and reveal themselves. A character who uses vocal fillers–um, er, well, you know, and like—has a character trait that may suggest hesitancy. A heroine whose voice squeaks signals her excitement; the hero who drops his tone to husky is also excited, but in a different way. How fast or slow they speak, how loud or soft their voice is, all set the scene and enhance what characters are experiencing.
Good advice from The Author Studio article “How to Use All Five Senses When Writing A Romance Novel” speaks to this use of nonverbal elements: “Let your characters notice how the other one speaks, not just the words that they use, but the quality of their voice. Is it clear and high or low and raspy? Do they whisper, or shout, their sweet nothings? Don’t forget to get nonverbal, too; whether it’s a sigh or a moan, so much in romance is said in sounds that aren’t words, and so much about the character is revealed through what sounds they make and when.”
And finally, make your romance novel richer by adding sounds the POV character would naturally hear or be aware of within the scene. The crackle of leaves underfoot in a dry forest, the swift, dull thudding of horses hooves on dry mud, the blood pounding in the heroine’s ears as her heart beats faster at sight of the hero. Sounds that surround your hero and heroine should sink the reader into the psyche of the character, letting the reader “hear” what the character does. The better your descriptive writing skills, the better the experience for your audience.
Tell me how you put your reader into your scenes? Do you make an effort to put all five senses into your writing? Do you find it difficult to include all five? Do you find yourself using only your favorite senses? Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for coming by! Join me next week when I explore the use of touch in romance writing.