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I Second That Emotion

by Bonnie S. Calhoun

That title is a line from one of my favorite songs. And I know it dates me but the thought is what counts.

When you are crafting a scene, one of the necessary elements is the stimulating of our senses to facilitate emotion. Now granted, sometimes it is hard to get all the senses into a scene without feeling forced, but there are a great deal more senses to choose from than you think.

Start with hearing. That’s a pretty easy one because the sounds around you are constants like wind, rain, conversation, machinery, and music. Even silence, the total absence of sound can create a skin prickling eerie emotion that washes over you.

Vision is usually the great fall back because you describe the scene, or person’s hair color, skin, or eyes. That one is fairly easy to incorporate in any scene.

But then you get to harder ones like smell. There’s not always something to readily smell, but you could fall back on the emotion of fear, and describe what kind of smell body sweat can create. Olfactory senses can be coupled with taste. Do you notice when you are sick with a stuffy nose, food tastes bland because you can’t smell it. That’s how moms in the olden days used to get kids to take castor oil. They’d pinch the kid’s noses so they couldn’t smell that nasty acrid fishy smell…and then you wouldn’t taste it either. It just gagged your throat with a seemingly never-ending cord of thick slime rolling its way down to your stomach. *shudder*…Sorry, I digress.

Touching is another sense that is usually easy to work in and that can have a powerful emotional response as in a character brushing hands with a handsome leading man, or pounds on a table when angry. Tactile senses can also be used to express emotion as conveyed by pain, as a searing, sharp, throbbing, jabbing or aching.

Emotion could be described by heat…as in the temperature around you, freezing, sweating, and shivering. Muscles and joints are another great sense that could heighten emotion by being tensed, or poised to spring, or even relaxed. And lastly, just the sense of movement can convey an emotion by the flowing grace of a ballerina or ice skater.

Or combine senses where one stimulates another and creates an emotional reaction, such as hearing a song from your teenage years and remembering a time or a place that you connect with it. I still get an especially warm feeling when I hear In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly. *sigh*…1968 was a very good year. But that’s another story! Yes, along comes its own form of emotion that can employ several senses at once.

All of our senses are responsible for stimulating our emotions, and in our fiction we want the readers to feel those same emotions, go to those same places that it takes us, and by osmosis move into the story worlds where we live.


Bonnie S. Calhoun’s latest is the mystery suspense Cooking The Books: A Sloane Templeton mystery by Abingdon Press. She’s publisher of Christian Fiction Online Magazine, Northeast Zone Director for ACFW and ACFW’s ‘2011 Mentor of the Year,’ President of Christian Authors Network, Appointment Coordinator for Colorado Christian Writers Conference and Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference.

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12 Responses to I Second That Emotion

  1. Excellent post, Bonnie! Thank you, thank you!

  2. I am going to print this out. I know it’s very important. Thank you, Bonnie.

  3. Wow, talk about a paragraph with emotional impact, the one about castor oil made me want to run for cover!
    And I love your title song, too. Agreed that the 60’s were unparalleled for music.
    Anne

  4. Jody Day says:

    Informative and useful post. Thanks, Bonnie:)

  5. Roger Bruner says:

    Well done, Bonnie. And at least you’re not the only one who remembers the Iron Butterfly and periodically still plays the album with Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida on it. *G*

  6. Sara Goff says:

    A great reminder!

  7. Great post, one I will print out!

  8. Smell is HARD! I think as writers we need to find a better way to describe the way hair smells. :) How much lavender shampoo is out there? Must be containers of that stuff stored in a secret location.
    Diana

  9. Don’t you know that I’ll always be true?
    That was one long song!
    I remember in High School English we got to bring songs to class so we could study the poetry of them. Jim V brought In-A- Gadda-Da-Vida, just because it was twenty minutes long!
    The poor nun sat through the entire song, knowing the kid had used up most of the class time while we all sat, pondering the musicality of the electric guitar. LOL!
    Sensory, yes. I remember the smell of those classrooms.
    KP

  10. Great comments everyone! And Diana, yes! Smell is actually easier than you think. Forget the lavender and think of fresh cut grass, or the smell of rain coming, or the smell of a skunk walking by your house at night…or a wet dog smell because he’s been in the pond *snort-giggle*…now those are smells!

  11. Just finished reading the article. I can see why you’re a published author. Thank you for the helpful hints. I have bookmarked the page. I really would like to write Christian fiction. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Anita Greene says:

    Thank you for the post, Bonnie. I’d never thought about sound in the sense of total silence and how a person reacts to that. A lot in this article I can apply. Thank you!