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