Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Touch


Touch is one the five external senses and your sense of touch is found all over. The skin is the largest of the sensory organs. A simple stroke of the skin can alter a person’s state of well-being. A touch can tell us temperature and texture; differentiate between rough and soft, wet and dry, and tight and loose. The brain produces a physical reaction to each sensory reference or clue. The beautiful thing about touch -- it’s a two way street. The physical world reacts back.

In the womb, touch develops before all other senses and it is the last sense to fade at death. To me, touch is the most intimate tactile sensation. Your hands being the tools used to explore a tangible world.

There are 100 touch receptors in each fingertip making it our most active sense. You can close your eyes, plug your nose, cover your ears or shut your mouth. You can’t do any of that with touch. It is always there.

Touching is common, be it neutral, negative, or positive and it can reveal the state of mind of a character. You can convey love or hate or subtle tiny discomforts. Emotional response is stimulated by sensation so a hug, a caress, a slap, or a punch can produce a response of love, lust, fear or hatred.

In Mike Klasseen’s article Achieving Sense Perception in Fiction Writing, he states: “Today’s reader expects to live the story through the mind of the character, experiencing the story as if the reader is the character. Effective use of the sensation as a fiction-writing mode can go a long way toward making that experience a virtual reality.” It’s a great article on incorporating the five senses into your fiction writing with reference to when and how and why. It is one of my favorite articles.

If you’re so inclined, you may want to try this writing exercise. Put a number of small items into a bag or box. Reach in and grab one. Force yourself to describe it before removing it. It might help you think of innovative ways to help the reader “touch” what your characters are physically feeling.

Since we’re romance writers I’ll end with a feel for the sensual end of touch and mention erogenous zones. I’m not going to mention the obvious ones because well…they’re obvious but those tantalizing areas like the nape of the neck, the back of the knee, or the small of the back. A stroke along them can produce a wealth of emotion. How about a nibble or nuzzle of the earlobe or the inside of a wrist. Think about someone’s hands massaging your feet. Number one spot, however, goes to the lips and their contrasting ability to be both receiver and seeker of pleasure. Because sometimes ‘you say it best when you say nothing at all’.

I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts on the article I mentioned so I hope you get a chance to take a look. There is some great information there. As always, your thoughts are most welcome.

“When You Say Nothing At All” by Alison Krauss
Chorus

The smile on your face lets me know that you need me.
There’s a look in your eyes saying you’ll never leave me.
The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall.
You say it best when you say nothing at all.

28 comments:

Yunaleska said...

This is an appropriate article for me. In my current wip, the protagonist has OCD. objects or people touching her has her running for clean water to wash away the germs. She takes this to extremes in the novel, but gradually loses some of the obsessive characteristics.

Captain Hook said...

I have one WIP that I have been struggling with for years that has a blind MC. That book and exercise sound like they might be a big help for it.

Thanks, Karen.

Karen said...

Hi Yunaleska. I was actually going to make reference to characters who doesn't like to be touched. There are many minor reasons people are not comfortable with touch. Then there are the major reasons like disorders or sensory issues. Glad this article helps. It sounds like you're creating a very interesting protagonist.

Karen said...

Hey, Captain. I really think the article I mentioned would be very helpful for the wip you mention. It really gives concrete ways on how to incorporate all the senses into your work and why the concept of sensation is vital to the reader experiencing the story for themselves. Another interesting main character in the making!

Yunaleska said...

She is interesting...lets hope an agent thinks so too at the end of this year!

Karen said...

We're hoping along with you!

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Karen, I haven't had a chance to read that article yet but I'll look through it later, assuming I find enough hours in the day today.

Touch is a big thing in my wip, and shows the progression of trust between the characters. Those erogenous areas can also leave a person feeling pretty vulnerable, so there's a gradual transition from assumptions of unwelcome contact to pleasant contact.

ban said...

that works for my characters too - they progress from physical contact as a means of showing strength to a means of showing affection. off to read that article :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Great post, Karen. I haven't checked the article yet, but I certainly will later.

We played a 'touch' game once where we covered kleenex boxes in dark fabric and hid different items in each. Then, we put entirely different textures in each box. One held cold, cooked, spaghetti, another a feather, etc. It was a fun game for kids and adults.

Janet C. said...

Great post, Karen. I started reading the article (and nodded my head when he mentioned six sense - I believe you spoke of that in a previous blogpost) then realized it was 8 pages. I'm at work - have to give some show of actually working :) I'll be bookmarking it on my laptop and reading it ASAP - thanks for the link.

As you know, Hugh uses a lot of touch to seduce Lady Bells. And he constantly has to hold her hand - making the connection with her even when they're with others or just walking. And, IMHO, the foot massage he gives her is hot!

I loved the reference to not being able to turn off touch - so true. And with suce a powerful sense, why would we not strive to include more of it in our WIPs?

Yuna and Cap't - you have great characters to explore the sensation of touch. That could be a major growth factor in your work.

Yunaleska said...

I'm on the first round of edits, so touch will feature in my thoughts. Her need to be clean makes a lot of things happen in the novel. I haven't had a character injure themselves so much before (instead of being injured).

Janet C. said...

Karen - is that another one of your photos on the blog? Family hands, perhaps? If so, I love it. If not, I still love it :)

Karen said...

Hi Hayley. Touch can allow a character to experience many emotions, trust and vulnerability among them. It can be intimate or terrifying depending of the situation or your perspective.

Karen said...

Hi ban. Hope you enjoy the article, its up there as one of my favorites.

Karen said...

Hey Anita. We were forced to play a similar bag during our high school initiation or frosh week. The combination of distrust, a blindfold and cold bowl of sphaghetti with various bits of who knew what added can cause a person's imagination to conjure up all kinds of scenerios.

Karen said...

Hi Janet. Hugh knows you can't turn touch off and he uses that fact relentlessly to break down Mena's barriers. Including foot massages. Very sexy, hot foot massages!

I hope you get a chance to read the article. I think its a keeper.

Karen said...

Yunaleska, I've thought of being able to accept touch as a gift before, but I do know. I'm also glad there's a light at the end of the tunnel for your protagonist. :)

Silver James said...

Karen, this is a great reminder! SHADOW DANCE is finished (for the moment) and put away for awhile. I'll come back to it in a week or so and layer in more of the five senses, especially in the first 1/3 of the book. I got better about those layers in the second half. I'm running betwixt and between but I've bookmarked the article and will likely print it out and add it to my "Smart Book".

Karen said...

Thanks, Janet, and yes that's our hands. All but my daughter's, who was too busy being a uncooperative teenager to participate. I was going to say I'm interested in photography but I actually know nothing about photography. I do like taking pictures and I get more leery of copyrights as time goes on.

Karen said...

Hey Silver. I'm glad things are going smoothly with Shadow Dance. I thoroughly enjoyed the small snippet I read. Layering in some sense perception will only make it stronger than it is already. If you get a chance, do read the article. It will give you some great ideas on how to layer it in.

Yunaleska said...

Karen, what you've just said has given me *ideas*! Thank you :) I think I've got an extra dimension to my character now.

Mavis Smyth said...

Karen - I popped this one into my favourites - really good read and worth holding onto for future reference I think! When I was reading your blog I got to thinking about 'touch' - it's amazing how much you just take it for granted, and never really give it a second thought, well, that is until someone touches you. I'm not quite sure why, but I always get shivers down my spine when a man sets his hand on the small of my back, say when he's ushering me through a doorway or into a restaurant...mmmm. - never been able to figure out what it is about that one simple gesture.

Karen said...

Hi Mavis. Glad you enjoyed the article. It's such a romantic gesture that touch to the small of the back. It's also, I think, I sign of respect, maybe a hint of intent and it's a spot that receives very little attention. It makes me feel special too.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Karen,
I just got to the Abbey and am signing on with the guest computer. Had a chance to read the article and he makes several good points (note to self: reread article when not so tired from driving).

One of favorite senses to write about is smell. The sense of smell is very close in our brains to the place where memories are stored. That's why a smell will take you back in time, like remembering Grandma's kitchen and the smell of baking bread. You can use this in writing to work in backstory or a memory for your character.

I'll see many of you tomorrow!
Jana

Karen said...

Hi Jana. Glad to hear you arrived safely. Yes, the sense of smell is very nostalgic and can call up all sorts of memories. Very useful.

Happy writing!

ban said...

i am reminded of the kleenex commercial where it keeps repeating 'touch, touch, touch' as they show a woman going about her daily business, picking up things ets. then, 'feel' as she grabs the tissue and stops to savor the moment. ah, maybe i'm just weird :)

Karyn Good said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Captain Hook said...

A test of what?