This is Part 2 in Jeanne’s series on using sensory science for deeper descriptions.
Please see week one’s introduction for an understanding of the “untapped” senses we are talking about here.
Below is a continuation of the descriptions of and writing applications for the rest of these senses.
Kinesthetic sense (Muscle and joint movement)
The kinesthetic sense provides the sensation of movement or strain in muscles, tendons, and joints. This can be termed muscle sense and is the awareness of the position of one’s body, including weight, muscle tension, and movement.
You use this sense in situations like closing your eyes and touching the tip of a finger to your nose. If your muscle sense is working properly, you won’t lose awareness of where your hand actually is, even though it is not being detected by any of the other senses. Muscle sense and touch are related in subtle ways, and their injury results in unexpected and deep shortages in perception and action.
A large, upscale department store hires a woman and her team to dress their windows for the spring season. As the team works on staging light and airy scenes behind the windows, the owner of the firm requires help from one of her team, and a handsome, young man volunteers. With two step ladders facing each other, she climbs up one, and he goes up the other. While someone else hoists a large placard upward, the two on the ladders nudge it into place, their hands touching each other’s hand, and the woman becomes deeply aware of how close the man’s torso is to hers. She can “sense” his nearness, even though she’s focusing all her attention on the placard.
Physiological pain signals near-damage or damage to tissue. The three types of pain receptors are the skin, joints and bones, and body organs. Recent studies show that pain is registered in a specific area of the brain. The main function of pain is to warn us about dangers. For example, we avoid touching a sharp needle or hot object or extending an arm beyond a safe limit because it hurts, and thus is dangerous. Without pain we would do many dangerous things without realizing it.
We’re talking about the physiological pain, not emotional pain. Both are used in fiction writing, and until now, authors mostly described pain as being sharp or dull or constant or terrible, and innumerable other basics of pain. Imagine how deeper your descriptions will become when you mention the receptors in your description.
Example: Due to sticking her arm out the car window for two hours, the skin on her right arm inflamed and each nerve ending shot miniscule bullets to the reddened forearm. She cradled her forearm close to her, but it did nothing to assuage the pain. Why hadn’t Daren awoken her earlier? Didn’t he notice her arm burning in the sun? Now they’d have to make a stop to get some aloe cream . . . the sooner, the better.
Instead of having someone get a “sharp pain in their side,” have them pinpoint the exact area. I’ve experienced kidney stones, an inflamed appendix and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. To this day, I can tell you exactly which one of these pains I’m having. By lying still and concentrating, I can pinpoint where inside of me the pain is coming from. I can tell if it’s high (kidneys) or low (bowels) or unusual (appendix). Not all of your fiction characters will be able to do this because they haven’t experienced these specific pains before. But they will be able to tell you if it’s deep inside them on the right side, whether it’s high or low, whether the pinpoint is radiating pain across the whole midsection, and many other specifics. These details will take you deeper into the POV character’s experience and will make it more real for the readers.
Join us next Thursday for the 3rd and final part in the series.
Using Sensory Science for Deeper Descriptions Series
Part 2 – Muscle/Joint Motion and Pain
Part 3 – Sense of Time and Direction