Bringing the reader into your story

By tying the senses together, a writer can describe a situation that places readers inside the scene with the hero of the story.

It’s a question that haunts every writer.

What can I do to bring readers into my mind so they can see the story through my eyes, so they can fully experience the story I’m telling?

It’s not a difficult task.

Just make use of the five senses, especially when beginning a new chapter or new scene in the novel.

Here is an example from my novel, Night Side of Dark.

I knew Ambrose Lincoln had escaped down a street in Dalldorf while a war raged around him. He is hurrying toward an insane asylum where he hopes to discover a secret that has eluded him. Bombs are falling, and the flames are touching the old hospital.

So this is the way I built the scene.

I began the chapter by bringing my hero into a certain place.

I wrote:

Ambrose Lincoln made his way through a frozen garden of lost souls on his way through the door. Behind him, Dalldorf was slowly awakening.

That was a beginning.

But that’s all the scene is.

A beginning.

Now I ask, what did Lincoln hear?

So I wrote;

The silence behind him was interrupted with car corns, and overhead he heard the drone of planes flying on the backside of the dark storm clouds. Soldiers were shouting. A gun fired. A woman screamed. The gun fired again. The screaming stopped.

Now I asked: What did Lincoln see?

And I wrote:

The massive lobby of the asylum was crowded with the flotsam and jetsam of humanity that had forfeited its right to be called human. A man laughed loudly. An old lady was crying. She was naked. The young man kept banging his head against the arm of a sofa. A girl stabbed the wall with an imaginary knife. She was singing. Beautiful voice. Unknown tongue. Doctors were walking hurriedly up and down the dimly lit corridor. At least, they appeared to be doctors. They wore white coats and had dark, somber faces, the kind of expressions men wore when they, unlike those around them, knew what had happened or was happening.

It was time to ask: What did Lincoln smell?

So I wrote:

The smell was familiar. Soap. Rubbing alcohol. Vomit. Urine. And liniment to ease the pain.

And I wondered: What did Lincoln feel? And what did he taste?

I wrote:

Lincoln could taste the smoke and the ashes before he felt the heat of the fire breaking through the walls that were collapsing around him.

By taking advantage of the senses, I had a much stronger scene.

It reads this way:

Ambrose Lincoln made his way through a frozen garden of lost souls on his way through the door of the asylum. Behind him, Dalldorf was slowly awakening. The silence was interrupted with car corns, and overhead he heard the drone of planes flying on the backside of the dark storm clouds. Soldiers were shouting. A gun fired. A woman screamed. The gun fired again. The screaming stopped.

The massive lobby of the asylum was crowded with the flotsam and jetsam of humanity that had forfeited its right to be called human. A man laughed loudly. An old lady was crying. She was naked. The young man kept banging his head against the arm of a sofa. A girl stabbed the wall with an imaginary knife. She was singing. Beautiful voice. Unknown tongue.

Doctors were walking hurriedly up and down the dimly lit corridor. At least, they appeared to be doctors. They wore white coats and had dark, somber faces, the kind of expressions men wore when they, unlike those around them, knew what had happened or was happening.

The smell was familiar. Soap. Rubbing alcohol. Vomit. Urine. Liniment to ease the pain. Lincoln could taste the smoke and the ashes before he felt the heat of the fire breaking through the walls that were collapsing around him.

By tying the senses together, a writer can describe a situation that places readers inside the scene with the hero of the story.

That’s where readers belong.

Bring them into the novel.

Keep them there.

Don’t ever make the mistake of leaving them out in the cold.

 

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  • Jackie Taylor Zortman

    Awesome. I love it when you tell us how you write such captivating novels.

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