The 5 Necessary Elements to Captivating Writing (Hint: at least 3 get overlooked.)
Goodreads asks lots of great questions. Some I answer seriously. The latest question was, "What's your advice for aspiring writers?" and I wanted to share my response, incase it can help you love your writing and love writing more.
In a nutshell, this is the be all end all of advice. And it isn't only for aspiring writers, it's for all writers. Everywhere. In every phase. A great reminder that, when we write, we write with a burden. And it requires all of what we are.
Here's my Goodreads answer:
Open your senses.
Really open them. Take some menthol to the nasal passages. Smear some wasabi on your tongue. Walk into a fabric store and touch everything, but wash your hands first.
Experience your life through your senses. Pay attention to them. Pause when you hear a train whistle. Look at the details of a painting that you've seen a hundred times before. Stare at it again. Look for the things you missed. Scrutinize the paint strokes. Focus on the canvas fibers. Invision the artist's vision take shape, stroke by stroke.
And then restrategize.
Shuffle them up. Use senses in a situation that don't relate. What did that painting smell like? Was that wasabi a pasty, tired green or was the green vibrant with life? Did the menthol taste like biting into an avalanche?
Okay, skip that last one. That could be toxic.
When you write, you are the gateway for your reader to experience your story. You and you alone can do that for them. Otherwise, they are limited. They cannot smell, taste, touch, hear, or see your story. For all practical purposes, they are void of all five senses and cannot stimulate them except through you.
You are their surrogate. Feel for them. Smell for them. Listen for what only you can hear and describe it. Go out there and eat that menthol.
Again, you probably shouldn't do that.
Homework, if you want some:
When we tell a story, we often share our emotions, our thoughts, a few visuals, and that's where it ends. We leave a lot of flavor on the table that could be added. Next time you sit down to write a story, as an exercise, focus on one sense, like hearing. Think about the scene: What do you hear? Focus on that sound. Is it alone? Does it have company? Is it why we - or, for fiction, our characters - feel and think what we do? What affect does the sound have on the emotion of that moment? Tell your reader what you hear as if they've never heard a sound of any kind before.
And when you do, send it to me in the comments! Because I want to hear it, too.