A lot of you may not know, but I had surgery on my left eye this past Monday (cataract removal). It had progressively gotten worse for the past few years, and I really didn’t notice the decreased/foggy/cloudy vision right away. I have a degenerative retinal condition which is under treatment, and when the vision started deteriorating, I (wrongly) assumed the retinal condition was the culprit. Boy, was I wrong! Things had escalated to the point that when I finally saw my retinal specialist in March, he did my usual retinal scan, and couldn’t do the procedure on my left eye, which was worrisome, so I had to have an additional test – an ultrasound on my eyeball.
Once I’d had all the tests done, he told me that he had good news and bad news. The good news was my retinal condition had improved markedly, and he was extremely pleased with the progress I was making. That’s awesome news, right? Then he broke the bad news. “You’ve got cataracts—really BAD cataracts.” So thick they couldn’t do the scan through the density of the left lens. He couldn’t understand why I burst out laughing at his pronouncement. I had to explain that cataracts were actually good news, because that was something that could be fixed, and my vision might improve markedly. I’d been dreading the news that I was going to lose my sight completely, and be legally blind within a very short period of time.
Anyway, I had the first of two procedures this past Monday, and the difference is astonishing. Unbelievable. Mind-blowing. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe the vividness of the colors, and the intricacies of patterns. Watching television has become a whole new experience.
But, this also got me thinking about our senses and how they pertain to the craft of writing. Have you every fully contemplated being without or losing one of your senses? Try it sometime. Walk around with a set of noise-canceling headphones on for a few hours. What is it like around you? Yet as writers, we often forget how important it is to include these senses in our stories. How boring would it be if we had to read a book that never mentions what the characters hear? Not just the dialogue, but also the other sounds around us. Birds chirping. Car tires squealing as they race away from a scene. Even the sound of music playing softly which our characters share a romantic dance.
The same thing applies to our outer senses, like smells and scents. Try cooking your food without being able to smell what you’re fixing. It’s a lot harder than you’d think (I tried doing this with cotton stuffed up my nose, but that’s a whole other story.) Cooking really doesn’t work the same. But utilizing the scents around us can add a subtle nuance to a book that would otherwise be lacking.
Most of us try to utilize the five senses (or six if you write paranormal) throughout our work, but maybe I’ve inspired you to try a big harder to make sure the story has that extra little oomph with sight, sound, scent, touch, and taste. A little bit goes a long way.
And I'll have the surgery on the right eye on May 15th. Honestly, I can't wait.
Kathy Ivan can be found most days at her computer, working on the next romantic suspense in her bestselling New Orleans Connection Series. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and BookBub. And you can pick up her latest book, Fatal Intentions, at the links below: