Monday, April 18, 2011

Senses of Humor - Beefing up your writing with the five senses

According to my pal, successful author and welder Eddy Salinski, Immersing your readers in your literary masterpiece can be a challenge, but one that offers distinct rewards by creating memorable scenes that will leave your reading audience stunned breathless. The idea is to bring your readers' own sensory systems into play, leveraging the powers of smell, touch, sight, taste, and hearing.

Here are some of Eddy's colorful examples to demonstrate how this can be accomplished:

SMELL: After a fine gourmet lunch at the exclusive highrise restaurant, the well-dressed Avon sales lady stepped into the elevator. As the door closed, she felt an undeniable urge to vent a noxious gas build-up resulting from the rich food she'd consumed. The consequences made her gasp for fresh air. Opening her sample case, she produced a can of Forest Glade air freshener and vigorously sprayed the enclosed space.

When the elevator came to a halt and the door opened, in walked a gentleman who immediately gagged on the wretched blast of malodorous air.
Attempting to deflect responsibility for the pungent atmosphere, the lady exclaimed, "The air is positively horrid in here - what in the world could have happened?"

Coughing and clutching a handkerchief to his nose, the man said, "Hell if I know, but it smells like a bear took a big dump behind a pine tree!"

TOUCH: The old adventurer proceeded to tell his tale that we were hard-pressed to accept as truth. "While touring along the mighty Amazon River, I stopped to examine a clutch of crocodile eggs in a nest along the bank. As I lay prone on the ground, I felt a sharp pain when something clamped my left leg in a vise-like hold. I felt sand and pebbles bite into my cheeks as I was dragged screaming into the water."

SIGHT: The circles of my binocular brought the girl into startling life-size focus, as if my nose was touching her thigh. I readjusted the view field until her full Vargas figure was framed for easy observing. "Good lord!" I whispered to myself as I watched her undress. Just then she turned and looked straight in my direction, as if she knew someone was peeping at her. And then she smiled.

TASTE: My client was a hot little number who suggested an authentic Mexican restaurant for lunch. I couldn't read the menu written in Spanish, and felt it safe to tell the waiter, "I'll have whatever she's having."

"Calamari," my client purred. "You'll love it."

In no time, the waiter returned with two large platters of what looked like deep-fried spiders. Taken aback, I asked timidly, "What's this called in English?"

"Squid," my client informed me, digging in to her serving with gusto.

I shuddered, then decided to man-up and at least try it. Plunging my fork into the mass of crispy, rubbery critters, I chewed ... and chewed ... and chewed. The taste and texture was distinctly unpleasant, as if I'd gobbled a mouthful of rubber bands. Not wanting to embarrass myself by spitting out the mouthful, I swallowed - and nearly choked. Once I was sure I wouldn't spontaneously regurgitate the horrendous mass, I managed a smile and mumbled, "Mmm ... yummy!" then quickly excused myself to dash to the men's room.

HEARING: It started as a muted thumping noise coming up from the basement, then gradually transformed into a series of booms, growing louder with each passing second. A sudden explosion of cymbals startled me into dropping my cup of steaming-hot coffee onto my lap. My sharp scream of pain was drowned in a thunderous cacophony of bangs and bongs that ricocheted through the house, causing the cat to launch from the living room rug with a screeching howl. Hoping to find relief, I grabbed the cat and ran to the back yard, but no solace was to be had. Even eight-inch-thick concrete basement walls were no match for a joyous four-year-old with his brand new drum set.

SUMMING UP: Eddy says it's easy to exploit your reader's senses to enhance your writing. But it's also important to remember to do so appropriately, and throw in a good measure of that other sense - Common Sense!

Robert J. Wetherall
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