When I began writing fiction, I assembled word lists to correspond to commonly used phrases such as ‘she looked’ and ‘he turned’. Soon I had cut and pasted two pages of stronger verbs from various thesauri on the internet and added words from reference books I own. Eager to find equally strong adverbs and adjectives, I compiled lists for colors and smells. While researching the five senses, I went to Wikipedia, and it was there I first discovered the eleven scientifically recognized senses.
The five commonly known senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste) were defined by Aristotle. The other six seem just as important, especially for a fiction writer. Pain, temperature, time, motion/acceleration, direction, and balance are all essential to fully expressing the human condition. In nearly every scene, authors need to check in with our characters to determine their comfort and actions. If they are teetering on the edge of a cliff, writers need the words to describe their sensations.
There are also internal receptors that regulate breathing, heart rate, vasodilation (flushing and blushing), intestinal distress, and swallowing. While these are also important for accurate character descriptions, they are not usually considered senses. Likewise, sense of ethics, humor, style, etc. should be reflected in your characters’ actions.
The senses are of little impact if we don’t translate them into Emotions (the lifeblood of great fiction) and Body Language (how we communicate emotions and sensory input.) I created lists for those as well. A good writers’ workshop weaves all three sets of lists to help craft compelling scenes. I recently self-published my lists in book form, which is available on Amazon. I have a workshop I put together using the lists and sensory props, which I presented at the RT 2010 convention and the Romance Writers of America national conference. I invite fellow writers to explore these new concepts and see how sensual your writing can become.
I use these lists when I’m searching for a stronger word, a plausible reaction, or a non-stereotypic gesture. I shade each story with different color palettes, highlight certain emotions, and assign characters defining mannerisms. These lists help me stay within bounds so my stories have depth and consistency. In first drafts, they ease my searches. In final edits, they supply the variation on overused terms. I hope they help all writers as much as they do me.
Also, I have put together a 'Workshop in a Bag- Just add Chocolate' for writer's groups to have in case a speaker doesn't show, or if no speaker is available. Using this, any good public speaker can take the outline, handouts, and props and put on an engaging workshop (just add chocolate.) If you want to know more, or would like to have me conduct an Eleven Senses – Who Knew? workshop, please contact me at email@example.com.
Several years ago, I had a past-life regression done, with the emphasis on my life in the spirit world between earthly lives. A well-trained hypnotherapist led me through my last life--where I was a grief-stricken native boy in a red-sand desert--to the spirit world beyond, where my soul mates and I allegedly share a space. I had been instructed to bring questions to ask myself, and the higher power I was to tap into. When I asked what my purpose in this life was, I was very relieved to hear my answer. Be a joyous presencein the world.
As I contrasted this with what I had always thought to be mypurpose - to make the world a better place by my actions - I found myself evaluating my choices, which had always had a serious side. So, even though I was skeptical of the past life regression process, the lessons I learned from examining my self in guided deep relaxation proved valuable. Thinking on what brought me joy, spending time with family and friends came to mind, and some of my fun volunteer activities. But certainly not being a microbiologist (my firstcareer), marketing specialist, grant writer, housekeeper, or accountant. Satisfaction - yes. Joy - not so much.
However, reading well-written passionate historical romance has always been a great joy to me. Virginia Henley, Betina Krahn, Bertrice Small, Lisa Kleypas, and scores of others made my life more pleasant through their incredible stories. A good friend half-jokingly suggested I should write a novel of my own, since I was such an avid reader. I scoffed at the notion. But, finding myself at another career crossroads, I joined a writer’s group and, just for fun, I tried writing fiction.
Writing romance is pure joy for me. I love creating fascinating characters I want to spend time with, planning challenging conflicts for them to overcome, and writing erotic encounters that change their lives forever. I love losing myself to the writing process and emerging hours later with five new pages to savor. I love watching friends smile as they read my work, and I look forward to having strangers tell me they loved my books.
The world may not take romance novels seriously, and that’s fine with me. I don’t like graphic violence in what I read or see, and I have not developed a taste for fantasy novels. To each his or her own. I love well-written historical romances, and I know many women who share my enthusiasm for the genre. Long live the happy ending!
Being a joyous presence seems a worthy goal. My husband likes having a happy wife, and I like being the one who brings him smiles.
If you want to share your story of how you came to write romance, or who your most inspiring authors are, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll try to include your responses in future blogs.