Ever read a romance that just didn’t grab you? Perhaps you couldn’t bring yourself to care about the characters. Perhaps the setting was dull. While conflict may have abounded, you found yourself unable to keep turning pages. I know I have. Of course, we all know that writing is subjective, and what appeals to one person may not appeal to the next. But sometimes I come across a story where the plot is compelling and the conflict riveting, yet I can’t force myself to keep reading. More often than not, this signals lack of sensory detail.
Sensory detail is extremely important in romance writing. The reader wants to see, hear, taste, smell, and feel everything the characters do. Whether it’s the first time the heroine lays eyes on the hero, or the aroma of her favorite strawberry pie, or a steamy sexual encounter, your scene will shine with the addition of sensory detail.
As most of you know, I’m an experienced editor, and I’ve found that a lot of writers mistake description for sensory detail. Don’t get me wrong – description is very important. Where would our scenes be without the fading magenta sunsets, the peaches and cream skin, the hard muscled chests? Although description can encompass the senses of taste, smell, hearing, and touch, it usually focuses on sight. But while description adds color to your prose, it is sensory detail that adds the emotion. And it’s the emotion that pulls your reader into your story, into your character’s skin.
So what’s the difference? Simply put, instead of describing what your character sees (or hears, or smells, etc.) describe the effect those details have on your character. For my next several posts here at Mama Writers, I’ll focus on each of the five senses, plus the sixth sense of inner feeling and intuition, and give you hints about how to incorporate these senses into your writing. In the meantime, here’s an example of sensory detail from my latest release, Rhythm of the Drum, available at The Wild Rose Press. Look for the differences between description and sensory detail:
Ella’s mouth dropped open as she stared into Raven’s smoldering gaze. When he lowered his head and took her lips with his, she didn’t resist.
The sensation of his tongue in her mouth was new and different. But not unpleasant. Oh, no, not at all. It was hot, so hot, and she tasted him. Raven. Slightly sweet, like cinnamon sprinkled over a tart apple. He explored her mouth, touching every crevice. When she tried to speak, to ask what to do, only wordless sounds, muffled by his mouth over hers, emerged.
If only she knew how to please him. She wanted to kiss him back, to tangle her tongue with his. To grasp his strong shoulders and pull him ever closer until nothing could separate them.