Using the Senses in Fiction: Sight


Welcome to the second in this series of five posts on using the five senses in fiction. Last week, I shared some words I hope you find useful in writing about sound. This week, some “sight” words.

To observe: admire,blink,  eye, gawk, glare, glimpse, ogle, peek, peep, peer, perceive, scan, spy, squint, survey, stare, view, watch, witness

Words describing brightness: blare, blaze, brilliant, dazzle, flash, flicker, gaudy, glare, gleaming, gloss, glow, radiance, sheen, shimmer, shine, showy,  sparkle, twinkle

Words describing darkness or difficult to see:   blackness, bleary, blindness, blurry,  dark, dingy,  dim, gloom, indistinct, invisible, murky, shade, shadowy,smudged,  void

Words describing colorlessness or nearly so:  blank, bleached, crystalline, drab, faded, pale, pastel, translucent

Challenge: Choose a couple of pages of your writing at random, and circle all the “sight” words. Is there a more descriptive word, or a more precise word that you could substitute for the word you circled?  One of the things I love about our language is that there are fine differences between meanings that can add rich and depth to our work. Specificity is a great tool that helps us paint more vivid pictures in our readers’ minds.  “She looked out the window ” is a fine sentence. But “She peered out the window”  adds a slightly different shade of meaning, as does “She stared out the window.”

While you have those two pages there in front of you, try this: Circle all the nouns. See if you can substitute a more specific noun for any generic ones you find. For example,  a bird singing in the trees is not as descriptive as a cardinal singing from the branches of the ancient oak tree. A car rounding the corner is less evocative than a rusty pickup or a sleek BMW rounding the corner.  Try for one strong image on every page and see how your writing shines.

Next time: The sense of touch