Tips to Incorporate the 5 Senses in Your Writing

by Ane Mulligan, @AneMulligan, +AneMulligan

Sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch: the 5 senses we want to use to create experiential fiction. I usually insert these during the second draft or editing phase.

Here are some tips for you to help incorporate the senses. Don’t forget to make them organic to your character. If you protagonist is a musician, her similes will be musical. If she’s an artist or designer, she’d thinks in colors. A totally left-brained engineer thinks in entirely different terms to a right-brained creative.


Let the reader see what the character does. Don’t tell us she saw a meadow beside a serene lake. Take the reader there: Lainie left the road and stepped into the tall grass, made greener by last night’s rain. In the breeze, knee-high mustard flowers waved their yellow heads in welcome.Beyond the meadow, the still water of the lake drew her with an overpowering invitation to dip her toes.

If the scene can become a metaphor for the story question or the lie the character believes, all the better.


To writeyourheroine heard a noise does nothing to involve our readers. But …The floor creaked behind her… gives an immediate desire to turn your head to see what’s there. Either that or run.

Use sound to foreshadow impending danger. As he jogged, the dry leaves and pine needles crunched beneath his feet. If it didn’t rain soon, they’d become lunch for a hungry fire as it devoured the hills above Los Angeles.

Sound can create moods or transport your reader to another season and age. The nursery rhyme jingle from an ice cream truck takes us all back to our childhood summers.

Do your best to describe those sounds in terms to which your readers will relate.And don’t forget, onomatopoeias are another tool in your technique box—especially with sounds.

Are you starting a new book?

Hooks cover ssml

Get the mini e-book on how to hook your reader with the first line!

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit


Even if you write speculative or Sci-fi, you can use smells that are familiar to everyone. It brings your reader into the scene like nothing else. In my Chapel Springs series, Chapel Lake is set in the North Georgia Mountains, but even if you’re in California, almost everyone has been to the mountains once. The scent of a pine forest is unforgettable.

Claire stuck her head out the window and inhaled the fresh morning air. Eau d’Lake with its undertones of piney woods was her favorite perfume.


With the first bite of cotton candy, the spun sugar melts and hits the back of the tongue, taking us back to a childhood carnival.

We associate tastes with good or bad memories. If your first sip of wine was more like a vinaigrette-in-search-of-a-salad than a fine Grenache, you might never like wine.

My son used to take the milk bottle from the fridge and pop the cap off and chug it down. But just one time that milk had gone bad, and that was enough to alter his behavior for life. Even thirty years later, he still smells the milk before he takes a drink or pours it.


The soft touch of a mother’s hand against her child’s brow calms him. When a man runs his fingers down the cheek or neck of the woman he loves, her heart skips a beat. When we feel the touch of the Master’s hand, peace flows over us.

Then there’s the heart-stopping moment a hand from behind clamps onto on the shoulder of an FBI agent tracking a drug lord. That’s a touch your reader will feel and draw a gasp from their throat.

No matter what genre of fiction you write, using the five senses will take your work from good to better to an unforgettable experience.


Life in Chapel Springs

Life in Chapel Springs has turned upside down and inside out.

Is it a midlife pregnancy or … cancer? Claire will keep her secret until she’s sure—but it isn’t easy. Between her twins’ double wedding, a nationwide art tour and her health, life is upside down. Shy Lacey Dawson was happily writing murder mysteries for the community theater, but a freak accident results in traumatic injuries. When the bandages come off, Lacey’s world is tuned inside out. Gold has been discovered in Chapel Springs and the ensuing fever is rising.

While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane Mulligan has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that’s a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction websiteGoogle+AmazonGoodreadsTwitter, and Pinterest.