using the sense of touch in writing

Sense of touch.IMG_5383
This is my third post in my post series on the five senses. So far I have covered sight and sound but today I’m talking about touch.
You can tell your reader how something looks and you can tell your reader how something sounded but I believe that the sense of touch is what truly makes the difference between telling and showing. It brings a scene to life.
The problem with the sense of touch is the simple question of how to use it effectively.
You don’t want to add too much of it and you don’t want to use it when describing everything but for the moment let’s simply get creative.
When it comes to the sense of touch what words you use are important. I suggest that over time you gather words specifically on the sense of touch and write them down.
The reason I say the words you choose are important is just because you have two soft pieces of fabric doesn’t mean that they feel the same. The same goes for a rock and a brick, they are both hard but not in the same way.

“All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary- it’s just a matter of arranging them in the right sentences.” – Somerset Maugham.
I like this quote because it focuses on the importance of word choice. I’m not really one to go on about just the right word but I feel that I can make an exception in this case.
So remember pick your words carefully. A good way to better yourself in the skill of picking the right words for description is to simply run your hands of things and describing what you feel. Waiting in a line? Whip out your notebook and start describing what the material of your shirt feels like.
List of feely words. (58 words)
1. Limp.
2. Pithy.
3. Pulpy.
4. Satiny.
5. Silky
6. Coarse.
7. Stiff.
8. Strong.
9. Firm.
10. Sharp.
11. Barbed.
12. Horned.
13. Itch.
14. Throb.
15. Grainy.
16. Flush.
17. Even.
18. Frictionless.
19. Porous.
20. Rubbery.
21. Springy.
22. Elastic.
23. Supple.
24. Wobbly.
25. Stirring
26. Burning.
27. Prickling.
28. Stinging.
29. Tingling.
30. Spongy.
31. Gritty.
32. Jagged.
33. Soft.
34. Smooth.
35. Hard.
36. Slick.
37. Bristly.
38. Fluffy.
39. Furry.
40. Hairy.
41. Leafy.
42. Sizzling.
43. Warm.
44. Cold.
45. Dusty.
46. Rough.
47. Abrasive.
48. Crumbling.
49. Lumpy.
50. Powdery.
51. Sandy.
52. Scratchy.
53. Tufted.
54. Woolly.
55. Stiff.
56. Velvety.
57. Doughy.
58. Thorny.

These are all descriptive words but you will also need words that describe the action of the touch. You will need words for the touch itself.

Much shorter list of touchy words. (11 words.)
1. Grazed.
2. Swept.
3. Brushed.
4. Scrape.
5. Shave.
6. Kiss.
7. Pinch.
8. Flick.
9. Tickle.
10. Scratch.
11. Creep.
Some of these words are close to being an onomatopoeic word.
An onomatopoeic word is a word that sounds like the thing it describes. Onomatopoeic words are useful in creating the feel of a scene.
Since I’m not a master at this I will leave more of this for another post.
The important thing about these words is that they strike sensation in the reader. Past experiences will tell them how it feels and take the story out of their imaginations and truly make them experience what your POV character is experiencing.
Describing something with the sense of touch can be interesting because if done right you can bring up its entire history in two details. You can provoke both sensation and emotion in a reader.

Writing practice.
Pick up an object. While holding it in your hands feel the texture and shape. Now think about how it was made. What has happened to it in the past? If it is made of metal then think of how it was moulded. If it has dents in it ask you how it had gotten them.
Now pick two or three of these details and write a description of this object. Why did you choose those specific details?

Using the sense of touch to create intimacy.
We can’t touch something that’s far away. But an intimate scene where everything is close and personal you can, that’s why using the sense of touch in these scenes are so important. Whether you are writing a sex scene or a scene of a mother holding her newborn baby you want to use the sense of touch because it shows the closeness between them. It shows the bond and intimacy.
In scenes that aren’t specifically intimate you can also use the sense of touch to highlight what is important. If you’re POV character is touching something then there is a closeness that makes the reader notice things.

I’ll leave you here with one last writing exercise.
Think of an activity you like to do. Maybe it’s swimming, maybe it’s simply lying in bed reading.
Think about the sensual part of doing this activity. Warm covers? dry sand beneath your toes?
Write a scene about someone doing this.
What words did you chose? What sensation do these words produce?

Do you agree with what I said here? Do you think I missed something? Do you have any specific writing practice you do when it comes to describing things?
I hope this was helpful and for a reminder next week I’m tackling the sense of smell and I hope you come back to read that too.

8 thoughts on “using the sense of touch in writing

  1. Very ambitious post and ambitious series of articles! This is a tricky thing to write about. I agree with you that the sense of touch of important in bringing a story to life. But it has very little to do with the fabulous list of words you have put together here. Many of the words on your list are conclusions–the author telling the reader what something is or isn’t–and not aiding the writer to show vs. tell. Perhaps do followup posts using examples from known authors who do this well will better illustrate the point.

    Your list of touchy words are better suited to your point of using touch to show and not tell. Notice how much shorter it is?

    Bolding your titles would help the readability of the post, but other then that nice job. You put a lot of work into this.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. placeofgrace

    Based on the last three posts, I’m really looking forward to the posts about taste and smell. That should be challenging. And the photos… Can’t wait.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The book *Word Painting* has an excellent chapter on using the senses in writing. Her explanations and examples show how it’s mainly the nouns and verbs that convey the sensory descriptions, with judicious use of adjectives.

    Liked by 1 person

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