Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Writing the Details


I’ve just attached five Post-its to the top of my computer screen. This is what they say:





Look like

It sounds banal, but when I’m writing, I get so caught up in the plot and the characters, I forget the sensory detail. As a reader, I know it’s those details that keep a reader immersed in the plot and attached to the characters and their experiences. Once I have finished this pass of making the final final (note the self: these are final ones) plot changes, I’m going to do another pass for sensory detail.

As a writer, and a writer of initial drafts, I err on visual details. I’m describing a town I know and love and I hope that my putative one-day readers will be able to visualise it too. However, to increase that experience, to make it more three-dimensional, I need to include smell, taste, sound and sensation.

What does a thunderstorm smell like?

How does a curry taste?

How does it feel to drive a motorbike at top speed along a highway? (Don’t know, but I can guess.)

What does a forest sound like at night?

I’ve read two books recently that were wonderfully competent, with fleshed out characters and a narrative arc to die for. Both have received literary plaudits. But they were so lacking in sensory detail that as a reader I felt emotionally detached. I started out willing to care, but by the end I no longer did.

I don’t want that.

I want my readers to feel heart-stopping thrill, I want them to be immersed and come out at the end saying, ‘I felt that.’


Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

4 thoughts on “Writing the Details

  1. Really I think the note is a good idea. I do that myself from time to time–ie check whether I’m including other sensory impressions aside from visual.

  2. Agreed. This is something I’m thinking about too in relation to my own beast of burden; I know it’s an area I need to fix in the MS if it’s to improve.

  3. Agreed – for me it’s part of the”every chapter” checklist as building up as my V1.5 draft staggers to what I’m laughably claiming is a “conclusion”!

  4. Great idea about the post-it notes for the five senses Charlotte. I might have to do that as well, I have the same “visual orientation” – need to make sure I get the other senses in as well. Next draft 😉


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s