Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Sixth and Seventh Senses

Though the five senses are the most acknowledged senses, I’ve often believed that in fiction, we need to identify two more "senses" in our writing, because they affect the other senses and arouse emotion. The first is the sixth sense, meaning intuition. This arouses a sensation or gut-level concern or emotional response that something is about to happen. The second sense is that of motion. While motion is actually a blend of other senses, its descriptive passages in your stories can bring realism to your writing and add to a reader’s pleasure.

Instinct or Intuition is that internal perception that makes us anticipate something happening— either a problem or a blessing. This can affect both an internal and external response. The character can feel tense inside. He can have the eerie sensation that something isn’t right. It’s the "full-moon" feeling we laugh about when everything seems to go wrong and we anticipate things getting worse, or it could be that internal euphoria, an almost giddy feeling that something wonderful is about to happen. It can go from that "skin-crawling" sensation to the internal prickle of excitement.

Lines that might show reaction to intuition are:
A uneasy sensation settled in her stomach.
His gut tumbled on a downward plunge.
Her heart skipped like a child jumping rope.
Calm seeped through her.
Something rolled inside as if she were being watched.
Sweet anticipation waltzed through her limbs.

These reactions are not seen outwardly, but they are responses to an unknown stimulus that causes an intuitive awareness. Notice that the dynamic, specific verb helps convey the reaction. Words like tumbled, skipped, seeped, rolled and waltzed are all important to recreate this internal response.

While intuition is mainly internal, physical signs can be seen as well. Hair rose on the back of his neck can be used to show a perception that something is wrong. Gooseflesh is another or a chill coursing his body. Each of these outward signs show the character’s internal struggle.

Motion is not really a sense but it is a way to show emotion and recreate a character’s internal or external response. We know that an inner ear problem causes us to be dizzy, and this dizziness can result in nausea and other physical responses. So I think of motion as a dynamic way to add realism to the story as well as broaden characterization and arouse emotion.

Rachel drew back as Cade bolted upward while his hand shot forward to nab her arm. This line involves the sense of touch –nabbing her arm, but the action arouses both Rachel’s and the readers emotions. We see anger or frustration in action.
Motion works well as an analogy to mirror the character’s emotions or mood. She sat mesmerized by a small white butterfly hovering around the blossoms, fluttering from flower to flower before it flitted away. This image can reflect longing, nostalgia, discontent, an internal feeling of insecurity or confusion. In romance, it could reflect the hero’s fickle nature.

Using details of motion makes the story more real and helps readers visualize the scene while adding to their sensual pleasure. In this sample, Bill, the father, is dawdling over his meal. He’s tired and dreads facing another day at work. When you read this visual perception from Bill’s POV, we can see it as a comparison to his own situation, perhaps recalling the days when he was younger and had more energy or reflecting his longing to feel like a kid again. Bill watched his son gobble his cereal with the speed of a forest fire, then jump from the table and dart from the kitchen. This sentence provides readers new information about Bill or perhaps helps them to understand part of his conflict as they relate their own feelings about this topic. A reader’s senses respond to the speed of gobbling cereal and being excited to meet the day.

As you write, don’t neglect those intuitive moments in your characters’ lives, and use motion to heighten characterization as well as stimulate readers’ sense of reality in your story.


Cheryl Shaw said...

I am so thankful for your blog. I'm working on the second draft of my WIP and going back over the first with a keen awareness of the senses has has really helped bring so much more life to the scenes and deepen the POV.
Thanks for all you do!
Cheryl Shaw

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Cheryl - I'm so pleased that the information was helpful to you. That's my hope that the blog will give you a taste of what's in my new book - Writing the Christian Romance. Though it's focusing on romance, it provides excellent techniques and guidelines for all Christian fiction.


Susan Lohrer said...


I just found your blog and can't wait to share it with the authors I work with. :-)

Would you like to drop by Inspirational Editor one day? We like to keep it fun and informative, and you'd be in good company. ;-) This week, Nikki Arana is answering visitors' questions about the structure of women's fiction vs. romance.

Gail Gaymer Martin said...

Hi Susan, I checked out your site. Your link didn't work but I found it anyway. I'd be happy to be a guest on your site. I notice you're a fan of Maeve Binchy. She's one of my favorite authors. I've read all her books except the last two on the list. When I grow up I want to be Mauve Binchy.

Thanks for the invitation.


Susan Lohrer said...

Be still my heart. LOL I wanted to be Maeve Binchy when I grew up too. But it seems my gift is in slightly over-the-top humor. So I guess when I grow up . . . I want to be a tipsy Maeve Binchy.

Thanks for agreeing to come for a visit. I look forward to it. :-)