Using Other Senses, Especially Hearing and Smell

My writing is heavily tilted towards the sense of sight (with the possible exception of certain scenes that make more use of touch). I’m bad about using other senses unless I specifically think about it.

A writing teacher pointed that out to me years ago, and while I’ve tried to integrated other senses more, overall, sight is still most prevalent. Which matches the way I view the world. I think much more with my eyes than my ears, nose, etc.

But now I have a were as one of my main characters (werewolf in this case). Suddenly, I’ve had to pay more attention to other senses, especially hearing and scent. Not only as a tool for description but also as a major part of how Trace “sees” the world.

That’s been a challenge.

I’ve been watching dogs and cats to see how what they hear and smell affects them. I’ve paid extra attention to people I know with strong senses of smell or strong reactions to certain smells. And people with exceptional hearing.

So far, I’ve noticed that…

  • People with sensitive noses are prone to headaches related to specific smells.
  • Both scent and smell can give warning of changes/events nearby that people with weaker senses aren’t aware of yet. And it can be hard to prepare for those events without giving yourself away.
  • Everything makes noise. People with sensitive ears might hear light fixtures or appliances humming/whining when most people would never notice. And, sometimes, it can be very distracting or painful (frequency matters).
  • If you’ve had a reason to pay attention to specific sounds/scents, you can easily become hyper-vigilant and extra aware of similar sounds/scents.
  • Similarly, scent associations can cause strong emotional and even physical responses. Like getting sick if you smell a cocktail that you drank yourself sick with once. Or crying suddenly because it smells like a dead loved one.
  • People with sensitive noses tend to be extra aware of perfumes and colognes (and have very strong opinions about them).
  • When you have very good hearing, it’s hard not to eavesdrop. And noise canceling headphones aren’t always enough to not hear what’s happening nearby. In fact, ear plugs with noise canceling headphones might be required, but that might make you a bit paranoid because suddenly you’re missing one of your main senses. That takes a lot of trust in the safety of your surroundings.
  • Strong scents or sounds can overwhelm / take over a person’s focus and make it hard to notice inout from other senses.

Trying to keep all that in mind when I’m writing Trace isn’t easy. Once I have the draft manuscript, I may need to run through it once just focusing on Trace’s senses to make sure I’m consistent and that his reactions fit his specific sensitivities.

But I’ll be a better writer for the experience, right?

Speaking of experience, if anyone wants to share your own hearing or smelling experiences, that would be a big help. What did I miss that I should keep in mind as I write?


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