Yesterday the prompt/exercise was to add some sensory detail(s) to a scene.
I selected a paragraph from my w-i-p:
As I continued to look across the field, movement – ever so slight – caught my eye. Someone was standing to the side, half hidden in shadow, watching the field. From this distance I couldn’t see who it was, but I could tell it was a girl by the way her hair lifted in the breeze. Something about her was familiar – the way she was standing maybe, or how she crossed her arms over her chest. But before I could make a connection, she faded back and was gone.
True to form, I used only sight in this paragraph – what the character sees. This gives us a sense of the football field setting and a hint at a possible relationship with the girl standing by the bleachers. Does it tell us anything about either my POV character or the girl she is looking at? Not really.
Since I only used one sense in this paragraph, I have a lot of other senses from which to choose! Before I chose one, though, I asked myself: What is the POV character feeling in this paragraph? Which sense can best help convey that emotion?
Sheridan, my POV character, is surprised and a little put out by the fact that there is someone else watching football practice besides her. Which emotion is more dominant or the one I wish to show? Being put out strikes me as more interesting and a way to delve more deeply into her character. Here are my attempts:
…I could tell it was a girl by the way her hair lifted in the breeze. I stiffened, my neck and shoulders tensing as I leaned against the chain linked fence, ignoring the discomfort of the metal pressing through my thin T-shirt. It might be stupid, but I felt territorial, ready to defend my place as Watcher of Football Practice against this intruder. She shifted to her other foot. Something about her was familiar…
Going with feeling/touch was a fairly obvious choice to show her feelings of being put out or someone “trespassing” on her space. But I wanted to push myself. Could I use a less obvious sensory detail to convey this same feeling?
..I could tell it was a girl by the way her hair lifted in the breeze. I tensed, wrinkling my nose as the acrid smell of exhaust from a passing truck pushed, then overpowered the sweet smell of grass. It didn’t belong, just like she didn’t belong. As I watched, she shifted to her other foot. Something about her was familiar…
I think they both add a nice emotional element to the scene, in addition to bringing in another sense. I like the second one better, even though I directly state–”It didn’t belong, just like she didn’t belong.” It gets to the heart of things quickly. Our character doesn’t have much, but she has this and doesn’t want anyone to take it away from her. I think it works and I’m adding this to the book right now! I’m sure I’ll tweak it, but I like what it does for the scene.
Share your experiences with this exercise.