Engaging the senses in your writing

I was talking with my eleven year old son the other day and he was explaining in great detail about these people who I later learned are from the fictional online gaming world of Wizard 101. This isn’t the first time he’s done it, either. Both my kids regularly refer to characters from TV shows or electronic games as though they’re real. It drives both me and my husband crazy.

But then I started thinking that isn’t this what writers look for when we craft our stories? We want the characters to feel so real to the reader that they could be someone you know—or would like to know. Or could imagine falling in love with. Who doesn’t want to get that little catch in your gut like the heroine does when the hero gives her a smoldering glance?

How do you write to fully engage your reader?

Here are some examples of how to use your five senses to bring your reader into the story. These excerpts are from the partially edited second book in my Tangled Hearts series, Forever In My Heart, which will be coming out soon.

Sight

Vicky bit into a forkful of baked ziti and reveled in the divine combination of garlic, basil, tomatoes, ricotta, and mozzarella cheeses along with the slight bite of red pepper.

Taste

Back in the main room, Maggie poured his coffee, and he took it along with a cinnamon bun to his usual table by the window. Slathering the top with butter, he took a huge bite into a sticky explosion of brown sugar laced dough.

Sight and Smell

Her dark brown hair was pulled back in a high ponytail. A few strands escaped and curled against her neck. She smelled like berries, apples, and cinnamon and he had to fight the urge to reach out and see if she tasted as good.

Touch

He reached out and touched her arm. A spark jumped between them. She must have felt it, too, because she jolted. All these years and his blood still heated up being near her.

Sound

Surprised, she cried out and acted on pure instinct—or stupidity. She elbowed him in the gut. He grunted a moment before the gun clanked to the gun. She attempted to step aside, but her assailant grabbed her arm and punched her in the jaw. It wasn’t a strong punch, but it caused her to gasp for breath. Grabbing the cake carrier, she swiveled and smashed him in the head. He yelped and fell, swearing when he hit the hard ground.

 

In case you can’t tell, there are lots of food references in Forever In My Heart. I leveraged my Italian background in my story and enjoyed creating what I hope are scenes that make the reader imagine being inside Vicky’s café or at least make you crave something decadent. 🙂

Cinnamon buns anyone?

While writing this post, I did realize I shy away describing sounds in my story. It’s given me a renewed energy look for ways to go into more depth as I continue with my edits.

What tips do you have to engage your reader in the story?

Maria

Snippet #5: The Runaway

Hello! I’m Jenna Blue, the newest member of the Violet Femmes. Although we’ve been all twined up this past year (forming fast friendships, critiquing like mad, and just generally enjoying the camaraderie of pals who ‘get’ this writing journey), I have finally taken the plunge and accepted their invitation to blog regularly. Thank you, Femmes! I’m touched and honored, and will strive to do you proud!

As most of you know, it’s Snippet Month! Before you sink into reading for pleasure, however, please take a moment to enter our contest by following the link below. We can’t wait to award one of you a brand new NOOK SIMPLE TOUCH!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d514c70/

Today’s snippet from The Runaway, is not one that highlights the heat between my sexy heroine and hot alpha hero, or even one that foreshadows the danger that crackles in a romantic suspense… Instead, in honor of my fellow Femmes, I’ve chosen a scene that speaks to FRIENDSHIP. Because no matter the form, the start, or the length—to celebrate joyous times and bolster you in the bad—there’s nothing like good friends.

Although they both search for Mitch’s runaway sister, Charlie has stonewalled the sexy detective who arrived asking questions, believing she knows nothing that could help—and fearing her own secrets will come to light. After he leaves, Henrietta, who has witnessed the heated altercation in the middle of the busy San Francisco soup kitchen, gives Charlie a piece of her mind—as good friends are wont to do.

 Charlie glared daggers at the man’s back as he stormed out of Glide. When he stepped over the threshold, she pivoted and marched back to the kitchen without a glance to the left or right.

Henrietta held open the swinging door for her by casually leaning against it, while she fanned herself with a plate. “Quite a show,” she murmured.

“I suppose you had a front row seat,” Charlie muttered as she slid past. She didn’t want to talk about it, so she attempted to adjust her tone to sweet, “Another hot flash, Henry?”

“Woo yes. Brought on by all the excitement.” She ambled in, the swoosh of the door just missing her as it returned.

Charlie headed for the far counter and slammed empty tins into the industrial-sized washbasin. She yanked down the oven door, and reached in—

“Ow!” She jumped back and lunged for the sink, pulled the cold faucet handle, and shoved her hand under the rush of water.

Henrietta grabbed two mitts and slid out the tray of chicken. “A little rattled, are ya?” she needled.

“Just not paying enough attention, that’s all,” Charlie grumbled.

The older woman set the food under the warming lights without looking at Charlie. “My mind’s lingering on that hunk of a man, too.”

“Henrietta!”

“Well, he is a looker.” She returned to the oven for some warm dumplings. Charlie rolled her eyes and caught Henrietta’s smirk.

“What’d he say to make you so angry?”

“Nothing really,” Charlie eyeballed the pad of her index finger, found it slightly red, and stuck it back under the stream of cold water. “He just rubbed me the wrong way.”

“What’s he want?”

Charlie huffed out a breath, turned off the faucet, and grabbed a towel. “He’s a cop. He’s looking for his sister.” She faced Henrietta. “Tiffany Scott.”

Henrietta stared. “Then what was all the yelling about?”

“I wasn’t willing to give him any information without a warrant.”

Henrietta put her hands on her hips. “Why ever not, child?”

“Because how do I know she wants to be found? That he’s who he says he is? That he’s not the cause of her trouble, or that he’s doing what’s right for her?”

Henrietta cocked her head. “Isn’t this the very girl you been worrying over?”

Charlie nodded, sheepish.

Henrietta shook her head. “You are somethin’ else, if you withheld information that could help that girl. From an officer of the law, no less!”

“A job or a title doesn’t make a person automatically trustworthy, Henry.” Appearances could be deceiving—a truth she’d do well to remember. “Besides, if I knew where she was, I would have helped her myself.”

“Mmm-hmmn. Just by looking at that fine man, I can tell he’s on the up and up, and I bet you know it, too.”

Charlie frowned. Maybe, except if he was Tiffany’s brother, then he was also from Pennsylvania. Add that to the fact that he’s in law enforcement, and the chances of him recognizing her skyrocketed.

She threw the drying towel on the metal counter. “What I know,” she said, “is that the good-looking ones can be the worst kind.”

Henrietta clucked her tongue. “What I know is that a good man could be just what you need to force you out of that box you live in.”

“You rent me that box!” Charlie stomped her foot, then immediately regretted the petulant action. A landlady who acted more like a mother naturally brought out her inner child.

“That’s not what I meant and you know it,” Henrietta raised her chin in challenge.

Charlie blew out another breath hard—this one forceful enough to make her short bangs move. “Stop pushing. I have everything I need.”

“You most certainly do not! You serve at this mission and you waitress at night. Otherwise, you hide out in your apartment. No friends to speak of—”

Charlie began, “I have you and Cleo—”

“No friends your own age—real girlfriends! Never a date, no hobbies, and not a lick of fun as far as I can tell.” Henrietta had started fanning herself again in the middle of this tirade with a work-worn hand.

“You should talk,” Charlie said.

“I’m old! I’ve lived life, child!” She flapped both hands in exasperation and her generous bosom heaved. “You deserve more.”

Charlie shook her head. “Please, Henry. This is the only way for me.” Tears threatened, so she clenched her jaw. “I promise you, I’m content. It might not seem like much from the outside looking in, but this life is a blessing.”

Snippet #3 – Love’s Second Chance

I’m not sure about you, but I’m still on a high from a FANTASTIC weekend at the NJ Romance Writer’s Put Your Heart In A Book Conference. A huge CONGRATULATIONS to Femmes Michele Mannon & Jenna Blue who won first place in the Put You Heart In A Book Contest.

During the conference, we met many fabulous writers and made new friends. Check out our new Photos page for some pictures of special moments from the conference. I’m always amazed to hear real life stories from authors who started at the bottom and fought their way to the top. Hearing their inspiring stories of how they overcame both personal and professional challenges puts things into perspective for me. Although I may not be at the very bottom, I’m working my way up the ladder toward success. And while there are times I may get knocked down a rung or two, I grasp on tight and climb right back up. This post goes out to all my writer friends who are frustrated with the journey. It’s tough. We know that going in but that doesn’t make it easy to handle when bad stuff happens to us. Be strong. You have a huge support system of writers rallying for each other. Sometimes you need to regroup and come up with a new game plan, but don’t give up.  Hugs, Maria

In case you didn’t read it, we’re holding a special One-Year Anniversary Contest from 10/12-11/16 and are giving away a Nook Simple Touch. Click the link below or the link from the right side-bar to enter.

Below is a snippet from my completed manuscript, Love’s Second Chance, which won first place in the CT Chapter’s Write Stuff Contest and is currently a finalist in the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest.

After losing her family to a tragedy, Kate has spent the past four years avoiding emotional attachments. After asking a former lover for help designing a restaurant her parents plan to open, she’s faced with fighting her attraction and denying the growing feelings she has for this man. Exhausted after a long day baking cookies with a six-year old orphan, Kate is vulnerable and succumbs to Edward’s healing touch.  

          Edward glanced down at the high-heeled black leather boots she wore. They came up to just under her knee and hugged her calf like a second skin. As usual, the heel was close to four inches, and while looking at them made the blood rush to his groin, they didn’t seem practical for an afternoon of baking cookies. Unable to refrain from the temptation, he unzipped one of the boots and slipped her foot out.

            Kate’s eyes flew open. “What are you doing?”

            “Relax, luv. I once dated a masseuse and she showed me pressure points to apply to become perfectly relaxed,” he said, rubbing the instep of her foot.

            She snorted. “Yeah, I can just imagine the pressure points she showed you.”

            Edward briefly thought back to Lana, at least that’s what he thought her name was, with a fond memory. She had fantastic hands and could get herself into the most flexible positions. It made for some very creative sex.

            But now he only had thoughts of Kate as he stroked her foot. He remembered she had the sexiest toes, always polished with bright colors. He wondered if she just did that for the summer or if they’d be polished now.

            “You’ll be appreciating the special skills she taught me in a few minutes.”

            “Yeah, we’ll see.” She crossed her arms around her middle but closed her eyes again.

            Not being able to resist, he stripped off her sock and felt his pulse increase. They were just like he remembered. Candy cane red today and perfectly manicured. He reached for her other foot and started the same ritual.

            He studied her relaxed face, a slight curve to her mouth. A moan escaped her mouth and he wanted nothing more than to reach for her across the table and kiss her. Fully aroused, he sat trying to will away his erection all the while thinking how much he wanted to run his mouth up the length of her slender leg.

            “I take it you like?” he asked, his voice husky with desire.

            “Mmm hmm,” she murmured. “You’re hands are magic.”

            And then, almost as though she just remembered that he was the one rubbing her feet, she sat up, now wide-awake. From the heated glaze of her eyes, he knew she was just as turned on as he. A satisfied smile spread across his lips.

            “I seem to recall your saying that about a lot more of me than my hands.”

            She licked her lips and met his smoky gaze with her own. “What, are you fishing for compliments now? I didn’t realize you were so insecure.”

            “I’m not. I wanted to see if you still remembered.”

            “You should know you’re not very forgettable. Of course I remembered.”

  • Recent Releases by the Femmes

  • JB Schroeder

  • Joanna Shupe

  • Tina Gabrielle

  • Maria K. Alexander

  • Michele Mannon

  • Diana Quincy

  • RoseAnn DeFranco

  • The Femmes:

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 13,639 other followers

  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Stuff