“Before there is a touch, a taste, a moan, a smell, there is perception, seeing and being seen, eye-beckoned.” This quotation from Anne Taylor Fleming in her article, “Awaken Her Senses: Look,” in Best Life, persuades us that sight is the primary sense that we use. Other senses may be touted as being more important, but the sense of sight in a romance novel is paramount to an excellent read.
Romance writers are always told to “put the five senses into your writing.” What is meant by that is we need, as much as possible, to put our readers into the virtual bodies of our heroes and heroines. Most romance readers want to vicariously experience the joys and thrills of love by putting themselves into the characters they read about. In order to do this, the author needs to describe in detail, everything the characters experience—what they hear, touch, taste, and smell, and see.
In this final post on the senses, I’m exploring the sense of sight and how much our readers depend on us to be their eyes within the world of the novel. When creating a scene, the writer must visualize that place, those people, the action–must see them in her mind before translating that onto the blank page of the manuscript. In doing so, the writer becomes the guide for the reader, helps them navigate a clear path, shows them exactly what they want the reader to see and thereby creates the vision of the book for the reader.
The best way to do this, at least for me, is to submerge yourself in the character, much as
the reader will do, and experience the setting, action, and other characters first hand through them. Like an actor who takes on a role, if the writer takes on the persona of his/her character, he/she can see what they see and pass that imagery along–vividly–to the reader.
This technique is called “showing,” and is usually tied to the advice “show don’t tell.” Excellent advice for a writer, but what exactly does it mean? Beth Hill, a fiction editor, writes in the article “Show and Tell–Not Just A Game We Play,” that “Telling forces a reader to stand outside a candy store window, able to see, perhaps, and hear what happens inside. But he remains outside. Yet when a writer shows, he invites the reader into the store to taste the bite of bitter chocolate or the tang of a lemon drop.” It is not, however, description.
“When a writer shows rather than tells, the reader is allowed a more active role. He draws conclusions, he projects himself into the story and into the character’s shoes, he experiences the character’s emotions with the character.” In short, when show is employed correctly, the reader can live vicariously through the characters, seeing what they see, hearing what they hear, tasting what they taste. A good “show” can involve the reader, suck them into the book, let them become part of the book themselves. So much so, they will come joyfully back to experience more.
Do you have problems with showing rather than telling? How have you overcome this in the past? Tell me, how do you put your reader into your scenes? Thanks for coming by!