Saturday, April 23, 2011

"S" Is For Sensazione

SENSAZIONE: The continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience.

Earlier in the challenge, I introduced Michael Gelb's Seven da Vincian Principles when I discussed Dimostrazione, or learning for yourself through hands-on experience.  Sensazione, the third principle, involves using the five senses to enliven daily life.  Da Vinci believed the secrets of Dimostrazione are revealed through the senses, especially sight.

The following is an excerpt from Michael Gelb's book, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci:

What is the most beautiful ting you have ever seen?  The sweetest sound you've ever heard?  The most exquisitely tender touch?  Imagine a sublimely delicious taste and a haunting, delectable aroma.  How does your experience of one sense affect all the others?

touch-all-senses.gifAs writers, we understand sensory details enhance our work.  Likewise, we understand all five senses must be included, allowing readers to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell life through the words on the page.

If you are like me, visual details are the easiest to incorporate.  My writing process is like a movie playing inside my head; I see my characters and the situations they encounter.  As the movie plays out in my mind, I transfer what I see to the page.

With the right kind of training, a writer can strengthen his or her ability to tap into all five senses effortlessly.  Gelb discusses a variety of application exercises to develop this skill.  Listen to a song and sketch what the music looks like in your mind.  Blindfold yourself and describe the texture, weight, and temperature of an artifact in your hands.  Sample different brands of the same food and describe the differences in taste and smell.  Study a photograph or piece of artwork - after distracting yourself for a few minutes, describe it from memory.  Find a place of complete silence, away from any humming or background noise, and describe what you hear.  Compare different genres of music, as well as different artists in the same genre.

And, whenever possible, role play the experiences of the characters in your story.  Eat what they eat.  Hear what they hear.  Feel what they feel.  Smell what they smell.  See what they see.  Live their life to the maximum extent possible.  Bring them to life.  Let them take over your body and write down everything you learn.

Do you have any exercises for awakening the senses?


  1. Try watching "Scream" alone in a dark house when the rest of the family are asleep! That'll sharpen your senses up a bit!

    Thanks for your comments on my blog. Yours is a blog that I find very comfortable to read and I thoroughly enjoy each post.

    Duncan In Kuantan

  2. I tend to develop the senses part of my stories during revisions. I focus on that aspect of it with a round of revisions, to make sure it's all coming in clearly. You really have to put yourself in the moment, which can be hard if you're distracted.

  3. eating chocolate livens the senses..but it shouldn't just be gobbled down. It needs to be savoured. :)

  4. Duncan - I'm a big baby, but I think you have a great suggestion. That would most definitely wake up my senses. And thanks so much for your kind words; I'm so glad you enjoy the blog.

    PK - I think you're wise. I try and tell myself it's okay to push it off until revisions; it's easier to address details when the foundation has been created. Of course, whether or not I take my own advice is another story.

    Lynda - Ha! Too funny. Yes, gobbling chocolate is no good. If I'm going to take in the calories, I might as well extend the ride as long as possible!


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