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Tip of The Day #6: Sensual Writing

I did not say, "Sexual" writing. Many people mistake the two. Sensuality means using your senses. The best writers, whether writing fiction or non-fiction, use sensual descriptions to draw their readers into the story.

 Most writers easily describe how a setting looks or sounds. Take your setting further. Do this: think of walking into a restaurant . As you enter, is the door heavy, requiring two hands to wrestle it open or is it revolving glass? What do you see? Is it flooded with sunlight, brightly lit with fluorescent lighting , or dimly lit by candlelight? Do you see mostly couples huddled intimately over small tables, crowds of people sitting at long tables or in booths,  or are people mostly at the bar alone? What sounds do you hear? Is there the quiet murmur of voices,  lots of laughter, raised voices, and some singing, or is there light jazz playing with the sounds of fine china, crystal,  and flatware clinking together as the diners quietly eat their dinner? What do you smell? The aroma of fresh coffee and bread baking, the smells of cabbage and salami, garlic and basil, or the smell of spirits such as gin, bourbon, or scotch mixed with smoke? Does your mouth water or go dry? When you take your seat, how does the surface of the table feel when you run your hand over it? Is the table covered with a silky smooth linen, a course oilcloth, or the cold feel of Formica? When you pick up your fork or knife, is it heavy silver, lightweight stainless steel, or plastic? Finally, how will the food taste? Your characters can anticipate the tastes based on the aromas, or based on past experiences. You could also describe the taste of their first bite. 

Don't get me wrong. Obviously describing every scene in this much detail will be cumbersome and tire out your readers very quickly. But with every major scene, think of which senses you haven't described in a while and us one or two of them. When you just tell what is happening, you only use the sense of sight, sometimes adding in sounds. Go beyond that to use the senses of touch, taste, and smell. Doing so will keep your readers engaged in a way that just "telling" about the scene will not. Engage your reader's senses, and they'll never want to leave.