Dragon’s Blood, Black Magic, Night Queen, Liquid Moon…


phrases like these tango on the tongue and rumba with your senses…and share page space in Book 2 of my trilogy. (Book 1 is out on submission.)

A few months ago I spent two days at a Gypsy fair. It was all in the name of research for my Cursed trilogy. Although I have always been fascinated by the Gypsy or Romani culture, I had not had an opportunity to go to a Gypsy fair. Wasn’t it just my luck or perhaps winds of fate and chance that blew a gypsy fair into my village by the sea – and just at the time that I was finishing up Book 1 of The Cursed trilogy and plotting Book 2. I love it when life synchronizes itself with your daily rhythms and a Zing! goes off in your brain.

Sometimes it is impossible to travel to a place where your story is set or explore a culture in your story…but other times life lends you a hand and takes you on a real trip into the imagination of your story. This is when the magic happens.

Human beings are sensory beings. Our imaginations ignite when our senses are stimulated. It is not enough to just imagine what a place looks like through our character’s eyes or in the view of the reader but to taste, hear, smell and feel a place through the richness of our senses. Sensory memory from smells, tastes and sounds ignite a world and a place for us. We can taste something and it immediately takes us back to the first memory of that place. We can smell something and the brain synapses start igniting and sparking with a remembered place and a remembered time. We can hear something and our memory acts as a porthole to another time and place where we first heard that sound.

Our minds and imaginations are not just cameras. We don’t just see. We hear, we smell, we taste, we touch and we sense. For me this is vital to putting a person in your story as if they were experiencing this place and this world for themselves. A story comes alive for me when all six senses are used. I don’t just want to know what a place looks like. I want to experience it and the fullest way for me to experience it is to use my six senses.

For me, I had a good idea of the Romani culture after months and months of research as well as a years-long fascination with the culture. But it was not until I went to the Gypsy Fair that my brain synapses really started firing and sparking. I bought essentials oils and essences with the names of: Dragon’s Blood, Black Magic, Night Queen and Liquid Moon. When I open these little wooden vials now I am immediately transported to the world of my story. When I play the music of the Romani (YouTube is very handy here) I am immediately transported to that place where my story takes place.

I spent one of the afternoons chatting to someone who is a pure Romani and whose family have been living this nomadic and exotic lifestyle for many generations. He spoke of the difficulties and the pleasures of this lifestyle and shared anecdotes and adventures with me. It made the world come alive for me more than any mere encyclopedia or Wikipedia entry could.

The world is a magic place full of the exotic and the worlds of our stories should be such a magic place. That is what first made me fall in love with stories and then fueled my need to create my own stories. Stories allow people to travel to exotic places, experience ancient cultures, fuel imaginations and teach us about the joys and horrors of life…all without leaving our chair through the magic portal of turning the pages.

How important are the six senses to you?

Which sense evokes the strongest sense of place for you? Smell/Taste/Sound/Touch/Sight/Intuition

Do you have a favourite story where the writer has used all six senses to build their world?

5 Comments

  1. I love scenes where food is described. I also like descriptions of light, and how it fills (or fails to fill!) a room. I don’t have a sense of smell, so the passages where scents are described are interesting little guides into not only how scents are experienced, but also how to write them. Early in my writing career, one of my most perceptive workshop partners pointed out that in a story about an Asian market, I included no scents, and smell was something very strong in his experience of that location. I’ve been more careful to include references to smell, but I often have to rely on getting verbal descriptions from other people.

    Best of luck with Book I off in submission!!

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