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Sensory Details – Kinesthetic, motion in writing

How do we convey the sense of touch, or feel, or kinesthetic (motion) in writing?

“The key to good imagery is engaging all five senses.” Five Types of Imagery:

“The five senses: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, olfactory (smell), and gustatory (taste).”

Previous posts about using sensory detail in writing:  visual, auditory and olfactory.

Now, let’s explore using the sense of touch to embellish and enhance writing.

Sometimes, the best way to learn is by example, learning from what others have written.

“At school, the guilt and sadness were like wearing clothes still damp from the wash,” and “Whenever I moved, I felt as though I were touching something icy.” —Family Life by Akhil Sharma

I know what that feels like, so when I read this, I can feel those damp clothes and know what the author wants to convey.

Here’s an example of using movement in writing:

“By the thirteenth loop, my hands were cement-scuffed and my head was spinning from being at knee height for so long, but the parade of hoping, bear-crawling, push-upping women showed no sign of slowing.” — Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall, describing parkour (a training discipline using movement developed from military obstacle course training.)

McDougall could have written “I was worn-out” or “I was tired.”  Instead he uses specific details: “cement-scuffed” and “my head was spinning.” He employed strong verbs: “bear-crawling” and “push-upping.”

With this type of strong writing, readers can feel the chafed hands and most of us probably can relate to “head-spinning.” I can see “bear-crawling” and “push-upping.”

A note about parkour: “Practitioners aim to get from one point to another in a complex environment, without assistive equipment and in the fastest and most efficient way possible. Parkour includes running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, jumping, rolling, quadrupedal movement, and other movements as deemed most suitable for the situation.” — Parkour, Wikipedia

Looking at websites about physical activities (martial arts, gymnastics,dance, etc) could help you find action verbs.

In Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch, Let Verbs Power Your Writing, Constance Hale regales readers with her unique style about usage of the English language, especially strong verbs.  Constance has been dubbed “Marion the Librarian on a Harley, or E. B. White on acid.” Kathy Myers wrote an excellent review of Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch.

Practice using strong verbs and specific descriptive words to make your writing strong and create images the reader can see and sense.  You can go to Parkour Images, choose a photo and describe it, using sensory detail. Just write!


Basic Parkour Movements

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  1. Ke11y

    She kicked away her buckled shoes, stooped under the drying fishing nets and ran along the wharf. The cutlass waving, drunken, overly amorous sailors plundered and ransacked everything that stood between them and the fleeing, Lady Sarah.

    Her beating heart might fail. Her legs, restricted by her gown, too, weakened so that all she could manage was a trembling walk. When the end of the wharf signaled no exit from her chosen escape route, she felt doomed. They might have their way with her but not without a fight. She picked up a broken oar and held its shattered point toward her foe and waited for the end.

    Suddenly, she felt captured. Someone very strong had pulled her into the shadows. He’d covered her mouth with a hand, so tight she could barely breathe, while another pinned both wrists behind her back. It was an iron grip. Bruising but not breakingly fierce. Thrust forward then swept from the ground as if she were a leaf lifted on a squirrel of wind, her captor ran with her. She writhed in those arms like a maggot held to a fisherman’s hook. Then there was no more glow of distant harbor lanterns. She felt herself being lowered, awkwardly. Her captor warned in a low hiss, “Don’t make any sound unless you prefer they find you!” She’d tried to glimpse her captor, but a heavy canvas got pulled over. Better judgment might have warned her to lie quiet, at least for the moment, but she gasped out furiously – “Let me go, you miserable piece of sea sc…!” His hand silenced her. “Stay quiet,” he warned sharply.

    She’d wanted to scream, ‘who the hell are you?’ But from behind the hand all she could manage was an indecipherable dry, croak. “Never mind,” he answered, cleverly translating. “Someone who doesn’t want observing any more than you do.” And he released, fractionally, as a kindly gesture, his grip over her mouth.

    “Then get your hands off me, you damn wharf rat!” He was equal to her outburst and again increased the pressure of his fingers. They tasted of sea salt and brandy. His other arm, tucked around her middle, held her fast to him as they lay, being swayed by the gently lapping waves. She had the presence of mind to recognize she was lying in a rowing boat with a dark stranger, probably wanting her to himself. The captor reached out a boot, slipping the anchor rope over the tie. The small boat began to drift seaward, aided by the push of his other booted foot.

    The Lady Sarah waited while her thudding heart, beneath the lacy bodice, pounded out of control. She became aware of his body against hers. He was lean, yet he was powerfully strong, she knew that much. Her chest heaved and fell. ‘”Lay real still, less you’ll be favoring the attention of our friends,” he warned.

    Maybe she was safe from the drunken sailors, but what about this man who held her so tightly? He certainly smelled a lot better than those ruffian sailors. Clean as soap, a hint of leather mixed with mint, she thought. His muscular arms, glimpsed in the moonlight, and his straw shoulder length hair wasn’t an unattractive sight. That was all she knew about him. Her instincts screamed to try and escape again, but something else held her still, obey his order and stay quiet.

    Her captor, too, found it hard to keep his senses attuned to possible danger rather than this woman he held captive in his arms. She swore like a field hand but felt soft and feminine and smelled of some exotic floral scent, as exquisite as the frothy gown she wore. A gown now in tatters. One tear is showing a shapely calf indeed, wrapped in leather ankle boots. Boots that had bruised his legs and had come perilously close to other important parts of his anatomy when she had kicked out at him. He, too, stays quiet, his breath on the white skin of her neck, her tousled hair, and wondering what beauty lay beneath the silly dress that showed her back and left her shoulders bare. It was hard not to put it all together, a small fashionable boot, a silk stocking, calf, hip, back and fine shapely nape. A lady indeed, he pondered.

    He reluctantly tore his attention from her, listened intently for a moment and lifted his head to peer from the canvas that covered them. The seamen had gathered at the end of the wharf and it sounded like another rip-roaring fight was going on. Brawls about which one of them had allowed her escape.

    When the disturbance of the sailors had waned with distance, he felt the woman had ceased to struggle. That meant even more trouble; he thought wryly. She stirred against him, trying to speak. He relaxed the grip over her mouth, and she whispered her question…

    1. mcullen Post author

      Whoa, Kelly . . . you can’t leave us dangling. . . what did she whisper!!?? What a wonderfully dramatic piece of writing. Good pacing, good dialogue, great characters. Believable. . . realistic. You wrote PERFECTLY about motion. . . you captured the sensory detail expertly. You could teach a class. But instead. . . keep writing!

    2. justinefos

      You are doing it again! You capture our attention, and imagination to feel like we are the feminine lead in the story, feeling what she is feeling – his strong arms, the aroma of leather and mint! (what is the name of his cologne? I want to smell the fragrance myself!) I was captured, but will we ever learn what she whispered?
      Bravo! Realistic and, dare I say, FUN!

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