The 'Sixth' Sense

What does the smell of wet dog look like? What color is the sound of silence? And what does it sound like when a snowflake touches the ground? These are all things that most people don't usually ask themselves. However, as a writer, these questions are what make your story come alive. So how do you go about it when you need to figure out the experience of the senses that go way beyond your everyday observations?

As humans, most of us are blessed with five senses: vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Although it is quite common for a person to miss one of these. Through time we have developed tricks and tools -entire languages even- to compensate the lack of a sense. Braille enables blind people to read, signlanguage allows deaf people to listen. You can imagine that the experience of everyday observations has already changed dramatically because of this. And you know what? Sometimes, I even think that these people experience on a much more sophisticated level than we do. Deaf people get to hear by using their body, causing them to feel words -see words, whereas we can only hear them. Blind people are able to experience through touch, something most of us will never learn. But this last word is key... learn. The sixth sense I speak of in the title of this blog, is not about 'seeing dead people', it is about the ability to adapt your senses to make them compliment each other. About learning how to use -for example- sight, to enhance the experience of a smell. Or learn how to use sound to enhance the experience of a touch.

As a writer I have learned that this sixth sense is essential in bringing a story to life -to truly life it off the pages. We are so used to the senses that we have, that they have become mundane and add little more to a normal experience. Our minds nowadays, are only triggered by extraordinairy things, especially in books. When we read about the growth of flowers, we want to smell them, feel their petals on our cheeks. So, naturally, it is up to the writer to fulfill the reader's demand -to use that sixth sense.

I think that most people who are able to write down stories are naturally gifted with this sixth sense, for the simple fact that if you are able to put images into words, you are already doing the very thing. So, all it comes down to is refine that skill. Find the words that will allow you -in your own voice- play with the senses, use different senses than those common for what you are trying to tell. Do so successfully, and you'll find that your story elevates to a whole different level. Practice with this, allow yourself to fail and learn through the mistakes you make. Read, and ask yourself if you experience.
This is difficult, perhaps even more difficult than the actual writing. Beta readers can be of great help in this process. But the key here is to remind yourself of it, and never forget that it is up to you to open the sixth sense of your reader.