I’ll let you into a secret. At school, we had one English lesson each week called ‘Prose Writing’ – and I hated it! I didn’t want to write descriptions of ‘A Summer Meadow’ or ‘A Storm at Sea’ using the five senses (or using picturesque adjectives or similes or metaphors, or whatever the task was that particular week). I wanted to write about PEOPLE – what they said, what they did and, even more importantly, how they felt.
Maybe I should have tried harder in those Prose Writing lessons, because I still struggle with descriptive writing – and with using the five senses. I don’t consciously think about using all the senses when I’m writing. If they’re there, it’s instinctive, rather than planned.
For me, there’s a sixth sense which is far more important. Not a sixth sense in relation to hunches or ESP, however. My ‘sixth’ sense is emotion. The heroine’s emotion when the hero kisses her is far more important to me than what his lips taste like or the smell of his aftershave. Her inner reaction to his anger or his sweet-talk matters more than what his voice actually sounds like or what music is playing in the background.
The reader knows what the senses are. She (I say this because romance readers are usually women!) has probably held a man’s hand, smelt his aftershave, heard his laughter, seen his frown or smile, and tasted his lips. I can leave a lot of that to my readers’ imaginations, I don’t need to spell it out for them with adjectives or similes. What I want is for them to FEEL the character’s response to all these things and that’s where I concentrate my energies.