Don’t Forget the Coffee

I’ve been working on some short stories this week: one for big and the other for little people.

I’m planning on getting them ready for submission to some magazines this weekend, so I’m powering on through the editing, and there’s an aspect of that I’m going to talk about today.

There’s one thing that I look to achieve in editing work for all ages and that’s providing the reader with sensory detail – recounting to the reader the experiential details through the minds of the point-of-view character.

This does several things all at once:

  • It brings the reader closer to the character in question.
  • It causes on-the-body sensation, which furthers suspension of disbelief.
  • It makes your landscape more real.
  • It makes your entire piece experiential, as though you’ve dragged your reader into a holosuite.

The more senses you can evoke, the better:

She put the coffee cup on the desk – white, with a brown lid. Must have been from somewhere new as there was no branding on it.

He took it in his hand. The warm, soft styrofoam squeaked as he picked it up. Steam drifted up through the mouthpiece and hit his nose with the distant tones of Columbian earth.

He tested a sip against his lips – hot but bearable – the reassuring bitterness overrun with a shot of caramel that tasted ambiguously alcoholic.

It was just as he liked it.

Okay, so this is entirely overblown for taking a sip of coffee. Nevertheless, I wanted to show you that you can bring the senses to bear in pretty much anything your character is doing. We tend to go for sight and sound first, but don’t forget touch, taste and smell – they’ll pull your reader further in.

Damn, now I need a coffee.

Go write!


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