Writing Without Senses

I’ve been thinking about the senses. More specifically, I’ve been thinking on the sense of sight. I recently dug up some old characters. Characters that I never really got the chance to do anything with. One of them—one of protagonist-grade, I might add—was a blind woman. As I was thinking on this recovered group, I thought it might be fun to write about them.

However, my big question was how to make the blind character, my protagonist, a point of view character. Description is a big part of writing, and you want your audience to be able to visualize what’s happening around them. How do you do that with a character who can’t see?

You take a lesson in amplifying the other senses.

If I remove a character’s sight, what senses am I relying on? Touch, smell, hearing, and taste, though mainly the first three. Let’s drop our blind character into a carnival. She can hear the chattering of the crowd, the cheery music, and rush of wind and machinery as the roller coaster whips by. She can smell popcorn and corndogs and mini doughnuts, as well as beer and vomit and animals. Describe cotton candy melting on her tongue or bits of popcorn getting wedged in her teeth.

She’s in a crowd. Describe the sensation of her walking stick against the pebbled ground, or the little jolt she feels when she accidently bumps it into someone’s ankle. Is she with a friend, lover, or family member? Are they letting her hold onto their arm? What does their arm feel like? At any point does she feel their face so their facial features can be described without visuals? Or does she go to the freak show and get to feel the strange scales on the snake boy because she can’t see him?

Drop a deaf character in the same carnival. Yes, he can see the bright lights and spinning rides and crowded game booths. He can smell the fry batter and taste the sugar coated mini doughnuts. But there’s no music, no screaming, no obnoxious bells or whistles. What’s that like, having a place so associated with noise suddenly devoid of it? How does your deaf character communicate? Can they read lips, or do they only know sign language? Do they have a note book for writing to people?

Does a lack of sound make the carnival less inviting, less exciting, or less fun?

Does a character who lacks a sense of taste get no enjoyment from carnival food?

Is someone without a sense of smell more likely to try the stranger carnival fare?

How does someone numbed to touch react to what should be the physical sensations of a carnival?

Obviously the effect a removal of sense will have varies on the setting, and more often than not it’s a lack of hearing or vision that will have the greatest effect.

So, consider the world around you, and then remove one of your senses, and see exactly how your writing is effected.

Categories: musings, On Writing | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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