I read a recent blog post about inclusion of sensory details in writing and how it improves one’s writing. In a recent reader’s comments on a scene the reader strongly recommended that I add smells/odors to the scene (I already had sight/sound), and I’ve read/seen many writers who do try to include all the senses in his/her scenes.
Inclusion of the senses when appropriate is definitely a good idea and should happen. In practice, for me as a reader, which senses to include totally depends on the scene. It also depends on what scents/sights/sounds the character would notice. Do you in every day life mentally/consciously note the “normal” sights/sounds/smells or do you mainly notice that which is different? This will depend upon why you are in “X” situation and “Y” place–and that is my point.
For instance if someone is called into their supervisor’s office in a very abrupt and/or unexpected manner which senses might logically be included? (Assuming that having a super-sensitive nose or other sense is not part of the character being developed.)
All I can refer to are my own experiences. When in a “stress” situation, I don’t notice odors or touch unless they are odd or unexpected. I will notice tone of voice and expressions/body language. But if all the other sensory input for smell/touch/taste is normal, I wouldn’t/didn’t notice them. However, if the supervisor’s cologne/perfume is super strong OR if the supervisor is wearing a different scent, that would qualify as ‘out of the ordinary’. I would notice if my deodorant fails. If the chair I was offered had splinters–that would qualify as not expected/normal.
As a reader, if a writer includes normal sensory stimuli being consciously mentioned/thought of by the MC in such a scene, for me that sensory stimuli had best be absolutely necessary for the scene and/or plot of the story. If it isn’t, they’ve probably lost me. I wouldn’t believe the stressed character would consciously note them (unconsciously-yes they would be noted because that would fall into all those things our minds note subconsciously every day as ordinary). Use those senses or inputs that someone in the situation would consider important.
What do you think? As a reader would it jar you out of the story? Are your reactions to sensory input in crisis situations the same or different? Let me know.