Friday, June 1, 2012

The Sensation of Touch


I don’t know about you, but it seems to me we writers are missing the boat a little bit, myself very much included. 

I was reading a passage in Confessions of a Shopaholic yesterday, in which the author describes the feel of an article of clothing. It struck me – like Thor’s hammer – that I’d missed many opportunities to describe how something felt on the skin or the experience of touching something for the first time.

Oh, I know, as readers we have plenty of opportunity to experience the lusty pleasures of touch, through the steamy pages of nearly every novel nowadays, but there is so much more than that to write about. I had an experience about 10 years ago that perfectly illustrates what I’m talking about. 

My new home – new to me, that is, as it was a 1940s bungalow – had a corner in my bedroom which was devoted to large windows that met each other at my headboard. It was a lovely spring day in the San Fernando Valley of California. A huge big-leaf maple tree towered over this part of the house and as I opened both windows a mild breeze rushed in.  I spread out on top of the cotton bedspread with a book in hand, expecting to read and perhaps nap for a while.

I was dressed in a strappy t-shirt and shorts, barefoot and my hair pulled up in a ponytail, with lots of exposed skin, in order to keep cool. As I tried to concentrate on the book, my attention was draw away by the feel of the air moving over my body. 

“Silky” was the word that kept coming to me. It’s a cliché, I know, but I felt caressed by a soft, unseen touch that was simply the earth exhaling onto my body, a gentle blowing like when a lover cools you after the passion is spent; or perhaps, a mother trying to give her child a moment’s relief from the heat. 

I stripped down to just my underwear and spent more than an hour simply feeling the breeze; allowing myself to be drawn into the sensuousness of that morning’s gift. I never slept, for this was an experience not to be wasted on slumber. Ever since that day, my sense of touch has been heightened. I will stop in the middle of something if I notice a sensation of touch that is extraordinary, or even when it’s ordinary but stirs a newness in me. 

I have failed to use touch in my books as a way of exploring an experience or heightening one, as I think many writers have.  However, today is a new day for me as a translator of touch.

17 comments:

  1. This is a very important point and you are quite correct in what you say about the sense of touch but as humans we don't pay touch much attention.

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    1. Thank you, David, for stopping by! It's so true, isn't it?

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  2. Thanks for a great reminder. I will find ways to write the sense of touch into my WIP.

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    1. That's exactly the reaction I had when I thought of this. I'm looking at my own WIP a little differently now.

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  3. Kathy, love the description.

    Alana Woods

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  4. Taking time to describe all of the senses is extremely important when writing or reading a novel. And, you're right, the sense of "touch" is probably the most easily forgotten. Thanks for taking Thor's hammer and nailing the idea in my brain. -- Caleb Pirtle

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    1. So glad it "hit" home with you, Caleb! Seriously, though, you are such a wonderfully descriptive writer, I'm sure this will be interesting to see in your works.

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  5. That was silky plus - nice piece of work my friend.

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  6. Kathy,
    I have a note taped to the inside of the folder with my WIP, it has all five senses listed and says remember - be a sentinal. (Sci fi TV show, this cop has all of his senses enhanced and became what a central American tribe a sentinal.) When I write I fly threw the pages, conversation, hand guesters, buts of emotion. When I type it up, I add the colors, textures, clothing, looks, sounds and other senses. I don't think of any of it when I am writing, but when editing into the computer that is something I always try to be very cautious of because I know I enjoy it when reading because my owned senses are so badly out of tune. :-)

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    1. Interesting approach - that's a great way to get it down - I call it dumping. My problem with that is I get married to the way it is and have an issue with inserting stuff.

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  7. If i try to write everything at once, I lose the thought, the point of the scene, the motions behind it that come out in the words. The rest of it, sense stuff is fleshy.... Very needful, but not the bones. I need to get the bones, then I put in the muscle, liniments, fat and flesh. Strange I now, but it is the only way I can write. Otherwise my pen can't keep up with my thoughts. :-)

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    1. I do understand. We all have our different ways - I usually dump very general notes in advance then space them out over "chapters" on a spreadsheet so I don't forget to add them.

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  8. What a lovely description. And you're not the only one, Kathy. I've recently taped a sticky note to my computer with 'see, hear, taste, touch, smell' on it just as a reminder...

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    1. That's a good idea! I'm going to steal it. LOL

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  9. Always appreciative of that which makes writing more real. Thanks for that reminder, my dear. I'm thinking about it already.

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