I’ve worked with children for most of my life, as a sitter, a nanny, a mom, a Bible class teacher, and as a Children’s minister at my church. I’ve done a lot of research on how individuals learn differently, and how to employ a variety of techniques to engage each type of learner. These methods have also proved useful for writing, as well.
When constructing a manuscript, whether fiction or non-fiction, it’s important to include sensory imagery of all five senses. Some readers will connect to the smells you include, such as coffee, cedar chips, or sweat. Some like to linger on the visual descriptions of blotchy blue ink or red-rimmed eyes. Others like to imagine the feel of silken fibers on their neck or gritty sand between their toes.
The sound of a match scratching across a rough surface and then bursting into a flame can strike fear or offer relief when placed in the right paragraph. The taste of sweet tea or orange marmalade will do more than light up taste-buds. I will also trigger memories of porch swings or family breakfasts or a hundred other things. It bridges the span between writer and reader in a way nothing else can.
Of course every page shouldn’t have every sense on it. You don’t want your story to sound like a child’s pop-up book – unless that’s what it is. But including one of the senses on each page, as appropriate to the scene, will help keep your reader interested. It acts as seasoning to your story, keeping it from becoming bland and impersonal.
The images give your story life, and keep it alive in your readers. When a reader is engaged, they are happy. They anticipate what comes next. They want more. Adding sensory imagery gives them more – more than just a simple description – it keeps their minds and imaginations working long after they’ve finished your book.