Charge Your Prose: Using all five senses to bring readers into your story

When I made a conscious choice early in my writing career to include all five senses in each short story or scene, no matter what, readers began telling me, “I really felt like I was there.” The shared experience of senses invites your readers into your narrative, drawing on memory to paint a vivid picture they can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.

Readers know the swish of long grass against their shins, smoke tinging a morning red, a mouthwatering cake baking in an oven, the coppery flavor of a bitten tongue, the painful zing of an electric shock. Constant sensory input, telling them what’s going on. Nothing builds a fully three-dimensional story for your readers like filtering all five senses through your point-of-view character’s physical experiences.

However, utilizing the senses in your prose requires some finesse and some thinking outside the box. All five senses should appear in each of your scenes, but some are harder to incorporate than others. Here, I’ve outlined both the order of frequency that each sense typically appears in prose, as well as suggestions for digging deep into representing each included sense.

Book Review: The Good Fortune of Bad Luck by Travis Erwin

In The Good Fortune of Bad Luck, Destiny Holt has laid out a plan for the trajectory of her life to take her out of a childhood of abandonment and poverty into a nursing degree, a nice home, and a family. She believes in making her own luck through the will to forge an escape from the fate that her impoverished birth would dictate.

By contrast, Dillon Konrad has kept his life in a holding pattern of waiting for the stars to align and bring him his soul mate, a job he likes, and lottery winnings, all based on a prophecy from his grandmother, who accurately predicted the death of his parents. He believes in letting fate make his decisions, trusting that openness to the will of the universe will bring him good fortune.

The Good Fortune of Bad Luck examines which of these two philosophies, if either, will prove true as Destiny's and Dillon's lives spin around—and inexorably toward—each other.

Never Apologize: A note to writers about burnout guilt

Writers get burned out. Maybe now more than ever. Hustle culture for writers comes with all the struggle—late nights, weekends, and maintaining an online presence squeezed in around a day job, family, and health—with very little of the reward that should come with hustling. In fact, a 2018 Author's Guild survey shows the median American author income in 2017 had dropped to an annual salary of $6,080.

Yikes on bikes, that's bad.

‘Said’ vs. Synonyms: How to use both as dialogue tags

Heated debate rampages across the online writing community as to which dialogue tag is morally, ethically, and mechanically correct to use: 'said' or one of its many synonyms. Use all the alternatives! Never deviate from 'said!' A great way to get (angry, rageful) interaction on Twitter is to ask the writing community which to use.

We average writers get caught in the middle. We just want to know the answer so we can keep writing, not start a flame war between influencer titans. We get mixed results, however, because the truth lies somewhere in the middle. In the mix of both.

Let's talk about what that means.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps Gameplay Mechanics: why I quit and why I came back

This assessment of the gameplay mechanics in Ori and the Will of the Wisps comes from a player who dislikes making mechanics choices. From leveling trees to deploying finite resources, I would just rather not. Yet Ori and the Will of the Wisps manages to incorporate both of my weaknesses and for this reason, I bounced off this game almost at once. Despite my love for the first game, Ori and the Blind Forest. Despite my being excited enough to pre-order the game.

But two years later, I came back and loved it.

Let me explain why.

Book Review: Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree is a cozy fantasy that explores the NPC side of adventure fantasy. The narrative follows Viv, a successful barbarian-class orc mercenary who dares to ask how life could be different if she hung up her sword and brought something new to the world. Deciding to open an obscure business known as a 'café,' Viv relies on a magical item of good luck to lead her to the perfect location for her shop and to bring exactly the right people into her life for success.

How to Find and Fix Filter Words and Filter Phrases in Your Writing

Writing advice often relates to the same two topics: show, don't tell and write in the active voice. So, say you're taking on these two nuggets of wisdom. You're ready to incorporate the advice you keep getting from your critique partner(s) and your writing group! You've learned everything you need to know about how to change passive voice into active voice and how to show rather than tell. Yet, even though you've made certain to use verbs that aren't being verbs and you've incorporated adjectives as descriptors, your writing still feels clunky. It's still getting dinged at your critique group meetings.

This is because oops! in trying to fix one problem, you've introduced a new problem. And that's the use of filter words and filter phrases in your writing.