Editing Tip #90 – Evoking the Senses Pt.5: Taste

It’s one thing for someone to give the writing advice of “show don’t tell” or “use the 5 senses” to flush out your characters and scenes… it’s entirely something else to sit down and attempt to do that very thing by yourself. Without that someone guiding you with examples it’s really no better than asking a random Chimp to make a phone call. If you give him time, sure, he’ll hit enough numbers and maybe even press send but who will be on the other end?

Previously in this series I focused on SIGHT, TOUCH, SOUND & SMELL

Today we place TASTE under scrutiny.

I’ve been talking a lot about the 2nd-most forgotten about senses when writing and today we will look at the most marginalized of the 5. Why is taste so rarely given its due? Because most people think your character needs to be eating or drinking (food, dirt or poison for that matter) in order too comment on how something tastes. What we forget is that we can often taste what we smell… sometimes good, sometimes bad but never boring.

Let’s return to that original, core sentence about Jeremy and Sarah from a couple of weeks ago:

Jeremy leaned forward touching his nose to Sarah’s. She closed her eyes, not sure what to expect considering they could be discovered at any moment.

Now with a hint of TASTE:

Jeremy leaned forward breathing in the sweet-rot of the underbrush. It lingered at the back of his throat as he touched his nose to Sarah’s. She closed her eyes and licked her salt-laden lips, not sure what to expect considering they could be discovered at any moment.

Here we’re mingling the scent/taste of something sweet but rotting (Jeremy’s perspective) with something enticing like lips but the opposite of sweet – salty. Not only does this inform us about the obvious: the underbrush smells strange and pungent and the pair have likely been sweating after running (being chased or chasing each other?). What it also tells us is that there’s some kind of discord between them, in this moment, through the juxtaposition that’s introduced. It also hints at the fact that Jeremy’s intentions or memories of a similar ‘sweet’ situation are tainted by ‘rot’. By drawing the reader to Sarah’s licking her lips we are given the impression that she might very well want to explore something sensual with Jeremy but the combination of the memory of her just having run and knowing they could be discovered adds to the tension and propels the reader to want to learn more.

Have some fun with this one but use it sparingly and use it well; you don’t want to end up calling the Easter Bunny if you intended to reach the Pope 😉

Happy Editing!

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