Using all your senses when writing

I love cooking.  I also love creativity.

Therefore it would follow that I love Heston Blumenthal.

Heston (above) is a British cook who is beyond creative.  When he cooks, it is more than food on a plate.


Image: The Guardian

He investigates how sounds impact our taste by piping in sound to evoke memories of childhood during a meal; how engaging with our mind changes our approach to eating and how changing the visuals of a presented dish give an experience that is more than just a meal; it’s something that teases all the senses.

So what on earth does a British chef and his scientific approach to cooking have to do with writing?


I have been exploring the same process, but within the frame of writing. Insodoing, I have discovered a way of writing that is really helping me get into a scene, into a character’s mind and explore the chapter through their eyes.  What I’ve taken to doing is listening to a music track that evokes in me an emotional response about the chapter while I’m writing it.

I have listened to music while I’ve been writing – perhaps you do to – but I’ve changed how I do it. What I do now is match the sense of the character’s experience (exhiliration, fear, overcoming adversity) with the song I listen to while I put that experience to paper or screen.

I know it works too.  I re-wrote a chapter where my character had a significant encounter with God as someone he loves slips away and dies.  He feels as if they are standing on the edge of heaven facing the Creator of the Universe.  I wrote my second draft while listening to StarWaves from the Oblivion soundtrack.

I gave it to my reading group, who had already read the first draft of the chapter (which was written without a soundtrack backing).  Their response was universal: wow, this version made me cry.  It’s not surprising. I was crying when I wrote it (and that’s not what I usually do).

So now I’m writing triumphant scenes with songs that soar, great disappointments with songs from a key scene in a movie that matches when a character stumbles or a vindication/resolution chapter with a song from the end of a movie.

It’s really working for me.  So my question is: do you do anything like that?

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