Mr. Capote was right. I would NEVER use some of the language (tsk!tsk!) my characters use... but some of the people I know might...
Hi-ya. It's that time again, folks. Time for our monthly IWSG posts. As always, thanks to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and thanks to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. To join this super supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE
Okay, before I answer this month's question, let's take a minute to consider how we can incorporate sensory perceptions into our writing, shall we?
Studies indicate that the male brain, not to mention certain other sundry body parts, responds more enthusiastically to visual stimuli than the female brain. That is, the sight of bare flesh has the tendency to rev up a man's juices faster than it will a woman's. That doesn't mean men are more responsive to non-sexual visual stimuli, however. Smarticus considers traipsing around behind me in an art museum to be a scant step above having a root canal. Nor does it mean women are immune to the visual appeal of certain male physiques, either. I've heard some women say the only reason they watch football is for the sheer pleasure of ogling all those tight bottoms clad in tight breeches. (Not that I've ever noticed, mind you. I watch it purely for the game.)
|An excellent athlete, I'm sure.|
To varying degrees, we all react to visual images. Females respond viscerally to the sight of babies, both human and animal. Men are more apt to notice an anomaly in their surroundings. Or in a movie. This, however, may be due to the fact that while a teary-eyed woman is absorbed in the story, her man may be bored out of his gourd and is therefore itching to poke holes in the movie for his own perverse entertainment. (I mean, really, who CARES if a Roman gladiator is wearing Reeboks, right?)
The point is, yes, men react, women react, we all react to what we see. But why do some writers work so hard to reproduce a specific visual image in the minds of their readers while completely ignoring the value of our other senses?
Like hearing. It would be totally cool if life were accompanied by a soundtrack, wouldn't it? If music could warn us when danger's coming, or if maybe a goofy-sounding ditty could've let my son-in-law's Uncle Mike know I was just joking when I told him we'd already met our quota for Mikes at the wedding, so he'd have to leave. (Thankfully, after a brief awkward moment, he DID laugh ...)
If your entrance were marked with music, what do you think it would be?
I'd like to think mine would be some really cool, sexy down and dirty sloooow sax music with a nice bass backbeat, but unfortunately, I'm more of a bouncy Mancini's Baby Elephant Walk kinda person. (sigh)
Some writers listen to music when they write. It helps them tap into the proper mood they're attempting to recreate with their words. Kinda like adding a soundtrack to their writing. Do you think it's possible for a writer to provide some semblance of auditory stimulation for his readers, as well?
Yeah, I think it is. Can't provide a full-blown soundtrack, of course, but word choice makes all the difference. Take the statement: The dog barked. Sure, it provides us with the basic information, and we understand what the words are saying, but how about this statement: The chihuahua yapped like a pit bull on helium. It provides the same information but in a manner such that we can almost hear the little mutt.
Certain sounds leave indelible marks on our psyches, like fingernails scraping across a blackboard, a bugler playing the haunting notes of Taps, coyotes howling, and bombs exploding. When a writer successfully taps into the sounds existing in our collective psyches, he may indeed make it possible for a reader to clearly hear the action in his mind. (And let's not forget the potential power of POW-BOOM-SPLAT onomatopoeia, either.)
Incorporating taste and touch into our writings is also possible if we take advantage of common sensory experiences. Most of us are familiar with the taste of blood, salt, and vinegar, and the feel of silk, satin, and sand paper.
But I'm more interested in the sense of smell.
Smells have the uncanny ability to evoke very strong deep-rooted reactions and emotions. Don't believe me? Have you ever experienced the phenomenon of catching a whiff of baking bread, a dank musty cellar, a certain brand of perfume or aftershave, or even the scent of sulfur, and been immediately gut-punched by an unexpected memory?
|Does the smell of sulfur elicit any memories for you?|
So, the wise writer will make an effort to incorporate smells into his work. Take advantage of your capacity to stimulate associative memories with your smelly words. Because the bottom line is, evoking a reader's reaction to the smells you describe in your writing will also evoke a strong reaction to your writing itself.
Ya know? Kinda makes me wonder if when I'm long gone, my children and grandchildren will associate any particular scent with me.
Hmmmm, maybe I'd better lay off the baked beans...
Question of the Month: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?
Hey, I'm no Hemingway, but I think he was right. To create realistic characters, I think it's only natural for writers to draw from some of the real people they know in real life. Kinda like making a witch's brew: a little bit from this one, a little bit from that one... such that characteristics we admire in certain people we know will logically find their way into characters we want readers to like, and traits we dislike may influence the portrayal of our villains.
One could say that certain traits of my husband may have found their way into the portrayal of my character George in Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade... but in no way was the character an accurate portrayal of my hubby as a whole. When Smarticus read the book, evidently he must have related to the character... so much so that he said, "Hey! I never said (or did) that!"
Ditto, actual events from our lives may find their way into our books. For example, many years ago, one of my cousins really did toss her entire dinner out the door when her hubby came home from work acting like a jerk, and my memory of that led me to include a similar scene in my book. I mean, really, that's too priceless not to include. So, yeah, bottom line, I've done these things on purpose.
However, I think the characters in my current book originated entirely within my imagination. (I am kinda accident-prone, though...)
Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.