When I write a story and set the scene for the reader, I put five elements into the description. The five senses, it’s what I was taught and I feel that it works really well, giving the reader a sense of being in the story.
Besides writing with emotions, I want them to smell, hear, taste, feel, and see what I do. What my characters do.
In my book The Eye of Lies, one of the best feedbacks I have received is that the readers all said they felt like they were there, connected to the characters, and felt as if they were in the same place. Even one reader said she could smell the cigarette smoke and taste the bitterness of the stale aroma.
Here’s an example of using the five senses; As Julie walked into the living room, she noticed the particles of dust fluttering through the sunbeam from the open curtain (sight). The scamper of a tiny mouse startled her (hearing), the air thick (feel), and the scent of rotted flesh gagged her reflex (smell and taste). Swallowing hard she turned to leave the room.
It depends on the story to the detail of what I’d want to add. I could have added the cigarette burned chair (sight, smell, texture) or the urine-stained rug or blood splattered decayed walls. I’ve used my daughter as my ‘tester’ for descriptions that I might question myself about. And there has been times when she said, “Nope just not feeling it.” So I’ll redo until she can place herself in the scene.
The same with character development. As an illustrator, I have to have the visual of somebody else’s vision, so this works well when I talk about a character. I want the same ‘feel’ for my reader but at the same time let them use their own imagination to what a character might be like.
From page 57 of The Eye of Lies—
Doctor Scott Helms, a distinguished professional therapist in his sixties, with perfectly styled salt, and peppered hair had the same southern charm as Latisha.
He leaned forward; his broad shoulders cast a large shadow against the wall behind him, his gaze fixed upon me. I looked past him, focused on his shadow, large and gray it rose above the filing cabinets, a small picture frame sat empty. The office was quiet, cold, and bare, only a few documents hung in plain frames. The black leather couch sat opposite of the small window; its heavy drapes blocked out the world.
His office wasn’t glamorous. It didn’t reflect his rich taste in suits and shoes. His glasses perfectly balanced on the tip of his nose. His eyes, sweet chocolate, a glimmer of shine showed his kindness. The fresh scent of his after-shave was like an aphrodisiac; it pulled me in, and warmed my skin.
He sat across from me and listened to every word. His pen clutched tightly in his hand, and a pad of paper balanced across his knee, he was a tall man with a straight posture, and his wingback chair molded to his physique. (I put in his size, style of clothing and hair but no skin tone or facial features. His office was cold, quiet, and bare, giving a feel of emptiness and unsettling. Leather usually has a smell. His description gives the senses that he’s a well-dressed, kind person but his office not so much which then brings a twist to the story and makes you wonder, why would this man who looks and dresses wealthy have such an office so cold, bare and empty?
I become that fly on the wall when telling the story of murder and mystery.