Eliza Redgold shares tips on how the seven senses allows us to create a more authentic character.
Welcome to RU, Eliza!
Romance Your Seven Senses
In this post, discover how to romance your seven senses to write more passionate prose.
“We do not put beauty or love or order into the world. We find them there.”
~ James Hillman: The Force of Character (1999).
One of the first pieces of fiction writing advice I received was to ‘use my senses’. To be honest, I had no idea how. As an academic of the absent-minded professor variety (as my university students will attest) I often didn’t notice what was around me, wandering around campus lost in thought. So, one by one, I decided to ‘romance my senses’ in my own backyard, by exploring the region where I live and writing about each sense. What an adventure!
The first in my senses series is Black Diamonds, set in the world of delicious truffles. It focused on taste. Hide and Seek, number two in the ‘senses series’, is all about sight and sound. The third in the senses series is a novella called Wild Flower. You guessed it – all about scent. And touch? Well, all romances are about exploring the sense of touch!
In my novel, NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva I brought all these together and added two other dimensions. In my work as an academic, I’ve been influenced by a wonderful theorist and colleague, Dr Lekkie Hopkins, who coined the phrase ‘passionate pedagogy’. The word pedagogy refers to the method and practice of teaching, but I think it also refers to the method and practice of writing. She writes of her passionate pedagogy:
“First, it is a pedagogy that draws on passions of the soul: it begins with love; it is fuelled by wonder and generosity; it has a political edge driven by respect for the self and respect for the difference and similarity of the other; and in its embracing of poststructuralist thinking it remains fluid and open to growth. Second, it is a pedagogy that draws on passions of the body: it understands that to know is to be, not to have; it engages the imagination and the senses in learning; it acknowledges the intersections of epistemology and ontology. Third, in its movement backwards and forwards between passions of the body and passions of the soul, it is a pedagogy that allows us to be, and to become, in a continual process of storying and re-storying the self in response to new knowledges, experiences and insights. It is a pedagogy that leads simultaneously inwards and outwards towards a condition of flourishing. (Hopkins)”
So, in addition to the five senses of taste, sight, sound, scent and touch, I would add wonder and generosity.
Wonder can sound a little dreamy and aimless. It’s Alice through the Looking-Glass, lovers and dreamers gazing up at the sky, searching for the rainbow connection. But wonder is charged with power. It is truly marvellous. It’s more than amazement, or surprise at something remarkable. To wonder is also to want to know, to be curious, to form an opinion, to be ready to act. We can create wonder-ful fictional worlds, when we dream and do.
And a sense of generosity? Well, it means giving all you’ve got. Generosity is a powerful generator of change for good. The word genus, from which generous comes, means humanity. Giving generously as a writer means not holding back. It means sharing your ideas, your words, your emotions, your knowledge, your dreams and your stories to inspire others.
In NAKED, I brought my sense of wonder to bear in re-writing the legend of Godiva’s ride. I wondered: what really happened? My research led me to believe it was a great love story. I couldn’t wait to share this with readers! The story inspired me, and I hope it will inspire others too.
Find the beauty, love and order in your world. There are unique tastes, sights, scents, textures and sounds just waiting for you to discover them.
Begin your adventure… Romance your SEVEN senses.
One of the best ways to access emotion is to write through the body and use the senses.
- Which sense is your strongest? Sight? Sound? Taste? Touch? Scent?
- What makes you wonder?
- What do you want to share in your story?
Be passionate! Bring these seven senses to your writing.
Hillman, James. (1999). The Force of Character. New York: Ballantine.
Hopkins, Lekkie. (2009). Notes towards the articulation of a passionate pedagogy. Paper presented at the Australian Association for Research in Education.
We know her name. We know of her naked ride. We don’t know her true story.
We all know the legend of Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry, covered only by her long, flowing hair. So the story goes, she begged her husband Lord Leofric of Mercia to lift a high tax on her people, who would starve if forced to pay. Lord Leofric demanded a forfeit: that Godiva ride naked on horseback through the town. There are various endings to Godiva’s ride, that all the people of Coventry closed their doors and refused to look upon their liege lady (except for ‘peeping Tom’) and that her husband, in remorse, lifted the tax.
Naked is an original version of Godiva’s tale with a twist that may be closer to the truth: by the end of his life Leofric had fallen deeply in love with Lady Godiva. A tale of legendary courage and extraordinary passion, Naked brings an epic story new voice.
Enter this Goodreads Giveaway to win signed copy of Naked: A Novel about Lady Godiva.
Author Eliza Redgold is an academic and unashamed romantic. “NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva” will be released internationally by St Martin’s Press New York in July 2015. Her ‘Romance your Senses’ series of contemporary romances are published by Harlequin (MIRA) Australia and Escape Publishing. They include Black Diamonds, Hide and Seek and Wild Flower. Eliza is also contracted to Harlequin Historical (London) for two upcoming Victorian historical romances.
Eliza Redgold is based upon the old, Gaelic meaning of her name, Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd. English folklore has it that if you help a fairy, you will be rewarded with red gold. She has presented academic papers on women and romance and is a contributor to the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Romance Fiction.
Follow Eliza Redgold on
or subscribe to her newsletter at www.elizaredgold.com
- Weekly Lecture Schedule – July 20th to July 24th
- Careers in Romance Novels and How They Affect Characterization with Summerita Rhayne
- You Wrote a Killer Love Story…But Did You Romance the Reader? by Angela Ackerman
- Rie Warren presents: Sometimes a Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl
- Ask an Editor: How do I make an editor like my characters?