5 senses =  3 S’s – sight, sound, smell & 2 T’s – taste & touch.

Blind people experience the world as a rich tapestry of sounds, smells, textures and tastes. Just because they are blind does not mean their life is any less intense but they have tuned in to a way of seeing the world that does not need eyes.

This is what you need to do as a writer. If you are describing a place, imagine that you walked into that space blindfolded. Would you still know where you were? How? Close your eyes and imagine the sounds and smells, the taste of the air, the fabrics and gels and the feel of the furniture that would indicate to you where you were even if you could not see…

Here’s an example of descriptive writing which relies on sound, smell, texture & taste.

The clink of instruments falling into metal trays and the cloying smell of drills and disinfectant filled me with despair. I was back here again, in the place from all of my nightmares, but this time was real. Now I shimmied onto the cold blue leather and the whirr as the motorised chair came to life added to my rising panic. As it stretched out beneath me, I too opened my jaws until they ached with the effort; tasted the powder of the tight white gloved hand as it pulled at the corner of my mouth; squeezed my eyes shut and dug my fingernails into the soft palm of my trembling hand to distract myself from the pain. Here it comes, here it comes, the prick and the sting and the cold cold kiss of the needle, then the flooding numbness, and the feeling of temporary relief, all too soon destroyed by the searing screech of the drill as it spins hideously closer. Save me, I want to scream, but I’m already almost choking on my own spit, pooling at the back of my mouth. I wiggle my eyebrows at the nurse and she obligingly slips in the suction tube to stop me from drowning. Why is it, I ask myself, as I stare at the ceiling, weary and numb and exhausted, that a visit to the dentist always feels like a brush with death?”

Right, not here it is again, but this time colour coded:

sounds = blue    smells = green    taste = pink    touch = orange 

The clink of instruments falling into metal trays and the cloying smell of drills and disinfectant filled me with despair. I was back here again, in the place from all of my nightmares, but this time was real. Now I shimmied onto the cold blue leather and the whirr as the motorised chair came to life added to my rising panic. As it stretched out beneath me, I too opened my jaws until they ached with the effort; tasted the powder of the tight white gloved hand as it pulled at the corner of my mouth; squeezed my eyes shut and dug my fingernails into the soft palm of my trembling hand to distract myself from the pain. Here it comes, here it comes, the prick and the sting and the cold cold kiss of the needle, then the flooding numbness, and the feeling of temporary relief, all too soon destroyed by the searing screech of the drill as it spins hideously closer. The smell of powdered rubble as my mouth becomes a war zone chokes my nostrils. Save me, I want to scream, but I’m already almost drowning in my own spit, pooling at the back of my mouth. I wiggle my eyebrows at the nurse and she obligingly slips in the suction tube. Why is it, I ask myself, as I stare at the ceiling, weary and numb and exhausted, that a visit to the dentist always feels like a brush with death?”

[***Note: there is some overlap between taste and touch. For example, you taste the cold but it’s also a sensation, so you can touch something and know it’s cold – it doesn’t have to be a taste!]

If I take out the sounds, smells, tastes, and touch sensations, this is what the description becomes:

As I walked in I saw metal trays and instruments, drills and bottles of disinfectant. I was back here again, in the place from all of my nightmares, but this time it was real. I saw the cold blue leather of the motorised chair and my panic began to rise. As it stretched out, I too opened my jaws, saw the tight white gloved hand as it moved towards my mouth; shut my eyes to distract myself from the pain. Here it comes, here it comes, the long needle, then the feeling of temporary relief, all too soon destroyed by the sight the drill as it spins hideously closer. I see powder rising from my open mouth as the drill digs deeper. Save me, I want to scream, but as I glance down I can see spit dribbling out of the corner of my mouth. I open my eyes wide to catch the nurse’s attention and she obligingly slips in the suction tube. Why is it, I ask myself, as I stare at the ceiling, weary and numb and exhausted, that a visit to the dentist always feels like a brush with death?”

There’s nothing wrong with this sight-only description but it doesn’t draw you in as convincingly because the focus is ONLY on what I can see, rather than giving the full five senses experience, which is what most of us are lucky enough to experience on a daily basis.

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