Writing for the senses: Sight


The sense of sight is one of the most precious of senses. Perhaps having worked with blind children for some time I feel this more keenly than others. As a writer I spend a long time trying to create pictures for readers with my words. I think it is those word pictures that help to wrap the reader into my character’s world.

Those of you who know me well know I am a panster writer through and through. My first thoughts of a new story are usually visual. I see a scene in my mind and it begins my thought process on the story, even if the scene turns out to be half way through the tale, it is this visual image that powers the development to get to that point.

I enjoy working with images and in describing scenes. There is a fine line when enough is enough though and I found in places in my latest story A Gentleman’s Folly I took out some description as it seemed too much. I suppose with 18th century clothes, homes and furniture I could have got lost in trying to describe too much of it.

The sense of sight is a way characters discover each other with the reader. This is a very powerful tool if done right, and I’ve found the way to make it most powerful is not to tell the reader what a character sees, but simply to say what they see. This is deep point of view and allows the reader to be the character.

The phrase, he saw, she saw kind of kills the depth as it draws the reader out from the character. Occasionally it might be necessary to use those phrases but the less you use them the stronger the writing will be.

Here is a snip from one of my stories to try and show you what I mean.



This is from Timeless:

Miss Armstrong, how do you do?” As he shook her hand, flames of sensation eddied on his skin. Her smooth, pale, lace covered flesh nestled briefly in his palm. He took his hand away, flexed his fingers to ease the scorching flickers around his hand.

“I’m fine, and yourself, Mr. Johansson?” Hoisting a large bag on her shoulder, she took a step, edging him back, allowing her to enter. The portico door slammed shut, its eighteenth-century glass rattling.

“I am quite well, thank you,” he said.

Without the buffeting wind to drain it away, her fragrance teased like an invisible mist in the air as she stepped into the hall. Sensual, like her voice, warm, feminine and appealing, the scent of her stoked the dormant need he’d squashed for decades, kindling life where none should be.

The thick, damp curls reached almost to her waist as she tilted her head back to gaze up to the gilded ceiling. “Awesome,” she murmured, and he nodded, though it wasn’t the view of the familiar ceiling prompting his agreement.

Here stood the worst surprise he’d received this millennium. But he’d spent years working to build up immunity to her kind, and this exquisite little dolly mop wasn’t about to break through his shell.

Straightening, she slid the strap from her shoulder and dumped the sports bag on the polished mahogany floor. “Is it like this throughout?”

Teeth clenched, he winced at the thought of one of the bag’s metal, hooked clips tearing into the wood, now silky smooth after restoration. Thoughtless wench.

“Yes.” He lifted the bag and set it on the marble topped hall table. “My home is over four hundred years old, a rarity which follows the Baroque style. Much of it is now very close to the original standard of craftsmanship. May I take your coat?”

He approached, and a tiny flicker appeared in her eyes. Her pupils expanded a fraction, the first step in an ancient dance, and her response thrilled him in a way it had no right to.

Miss Armstrong slid the coat from her shoulders, and his neck muscles bunched in tension. The garment, a garish neon pink darkened by rain, was lined in heavy purple silk. A lovely foil to her pale skin, more of which was revealed by the way the scarlet bolero draped down so low, exposing one naked shoulder. He’d near forgotten the appeal of such skin. Porcelain, yet far more delicate than the object itself, and not icy cold, but warmed with the flush of lifeblood.


4 thoughts on “Writing for the senses: Sight

  1. That’s true isn’t it? The, he said/ she saw, thing just pops a reader right out of a character’s point of view and makes it all about the story instead of all about what that character is looking at. Good examples of a great and true point. Plus, you hit a pet peeve of mine,( as if you couldn’t tell).. I tell you I have set a book down with too many, he Said’s and /or she saws. thank you, Daisy, well done you.

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