When I edit novels from new writers, regardless of genre, they tend to share a common flaw – their characters see everything: they watch each other, see each other, and describe all visual aspects of a scene. Not bad, but God blessed us with five senses! Don’t forget to bring all of them into your story.
One great way to incorporate the senses is to help establish place and time. It’s tempting to write:
It was late June 1985. The air was hot and humid. It made Jane uncomfortable as she sat in her living room.
Though technically there’s nothing wrong with these descriptions, it doesn’t pull at the proverbial heart strings. This is basically a list explaining what’s going on. Instead, bring the reader into the scene using sensory details:
The wall phone in the kitchen rang as Jane pulled herself off the tan pleather couch. Sweat rolled down her back, sealing the blouse against her skin. She reached the television as Barbara Walters filled the screen. Jane turned a knob. With a loud click, the television went silent.
The day and the year aren’t as specific, but you get an idea of the time period and season. As you continue to write these kinds of scenes, the reader will see where and when the story takes place without you having to tell them.
Here’s another example:
Alexa’s phone dinged. She checked it again and sighed. Just her mom. Figures. The light turned green, so she tossed the phone on the seat beside her as her Jetta crunched across the snow. She rubbed her bare fingers across the top of her jeans as she urged the heater to speed up.
What do you learn from this description? That it’s a contemporary story. It’s either winter or someplace northern. You even get an idea of Alexa’s age – young adults prefer text messages to phone calls.
These are only a few examples of how you can tap into all of your senses to set the scene in your novel, so don’t settle for what your characters can see! Use all of the weapons in your arsenal to create vivid settings that your readers can experience with your characters.