Never a “Sense”less Moment – Writing the Big FIVE.

What is your favorite sense to write with?  Use the senses God gave you to SHOW your readers how you feel.  They’ll love you for it.

Jackie Houchin

I just returned home from a two-week trip to Torino (Turin) Italy.  If you want to experience your five senses with GUSTO, this is one of the countries you should visit.

IMG_3496 (Edited)I TASTED the cool creamy sweetness of real Italian Gelato, bit into crusty (salt-free) Tuscan bread piled high with fresh-made tomato Bruschetta and drizzled with first-press virgin olive oil from an orchard that covered the nearby rolling hills.  I sipped a frosty pale green menta (mint) icy that tingled my taste buds and sent shivers of coolness through my mouth and throat…on a baking-hot humid day.

IMG_1367I sampled a vast array of Italian cheeses (said to outshine France’s), from wedges of soft, creamy whites, protected by powdery rinds, to the mellow, medium-soft, large-holed varieties (not Swiss), that were delicious in a salty-sweet way with a dollop of apricot jam on top, to the hard, net-wrapped aged cheeses that take a good strong knife to slice, and a hunk of soft Italian bread to eat it with to even out the sharpness.

An expensive treat reserved for special occasions are the tiny balls of fresh Mozzarella floating in whey and filled with rich sweet cream that oozes into your mouth when you eat them. Magnifico!

What of the pastas (hardly ever spaghetti) in rich tomato sauces with melted cheese (and occasionally chopped hard boiled eggs), or made with basil-green home-made pesto?

Italy18 Hot Choc. Fresh whip cream What about a decadent hot chocolate so thick and rich that it looks like Hershey’s Chocolate Topping, but more delicious, served with a scoop of freshly whipped cream so thick you could eat it with a fork.Italy18 Hot Choc.

Aromas tease your nose when you walk past pizzerias or pastry shops. Sweets and Savories. Or sniff the meaty goodness of rows of whole chickens roasting on a rotisserie, dripping their goodness onto large chunks of peeled potatoes below.

Old Roman style streets of small cobblestones or large rectangle blocks make for uneven walking and leg strain…but offer a “rubbery warbling” from the tires of cars passing by…if you listen.  Horns honk continuously as Italian drivers in tiny cars dart in front of you, whiz by you, or fume impatiently behind you. “Romantic” Italian is spoken everywhere, quickly, rolling from the tongue with unfamiliar consonant and vowel endings, sometimes staccato, sometimes lyrical.

Italy18 Torino fountainMove through wet heat that causes limp hair, sticky skin, and clothes that cling. And then come upon an arched metal fountain in a park or piazza in the shape of a bull’s head (honoring “Torino”) that flows with cool sweet entirely drinkable water from its mouth. Hold out an empty water bottle, or cup your hands to catch the coolness, or even bend your head and drink freely.

Italian greetings surprise you, not with impersonal nods or stodgy handshakes, but with full frontal hugs, kissing (or air-kissing) on each side of the cheeks (always beginning on the right side!), a hearty pat or two on the back and a warm smile and verbal “Ciao.”

Italy18 Sibling hugsKids walk down the streets holding hands and they hug their siblings freely, unembarrassed.

You will see women (entirely “straight”) strolling arm in arm or hand in hand.

Sometimes men too. (Seriously!)

Ah, Italy.


Vibrant with the five senses!

What about your writing? Are you taking advantage of the “Big Five?”


Exercise: Smell is the only sense that has a direct pathway to the memory center of your brain. What smells brings up unexpected memories for you? (Grandma’s house, your husband’s pajamas, Plumaria flowers, frying bacon, a certain spiced tea, wood polish, month-old laundry, cinnamon rolls warm out of the oven….a dead rat?  Describe a few of these using your sense of smell.

Hint: Read wine or perfume sites to build your smell vocabulary.


Exercise: How would you describe the sounds around you right now? Pause and listen! Describe how fire sounds in a fireplace… in a forest fire. What’s the sound of water in a pool, a creek, an ocean? Make up a few new onomatopoeia sounds.


Exercise: Describe something fluffy, icy, pliable, jagged, papery, leathery, or slick. What do things vibrating or painful feel like?


Exercise: Describe what something tastes like using a metaphor. (Comedian, Tim Hawkins, compares the taste and texture of a Krispy Kreme donut to “eating a baby angel.”  Think about that!)  What makes your mouth “water?” What makes you gag?  What does blood taste like when you bite the inside of your cheek? Have you tasted tears? Mother’s milk? Can you describe them?

Extra Credit Exercise. Buy a Bean Boozled Spinner Game and play several rounds with a friend. Describe the tastes of the Jelly Belly beans your pointer chooses for you. Flavors include Buttered Popcorn, Peach, Carmel Corn, Chocolate Fudge, and Rotten Egg, Dead Fish, Lawn Clippings and Barf.  I DARE YOU!!  Find a game here:


Exercise: Describe places you love. Describes different kinds of light, different shapes, perspective, illusion. Truly see a person passing by and tell what each aspect of his clothing, skin hue, walk, manner, and speed could mean. Use metaphors to describe a few of your favorite colors.

Italy18 checkered hall  Italy18 Castle shapes

Italy18 Lucky clover  IMG_3828 (Edited)

Close your eyes. Imagine one of your favorite places: a local coffee shop, the beach, a small bakery in Paris… anywhere. Take a few minutes to describe this place.

What is your favorite sense to write with?  Use the senses God gave you to SHOW your readers how you feel.  They’ll love you for it.

Author: Jackie Houchin

First, I am a believer in Jesus Christ, so my views and opinions are filtered through what God's Word says and I believe. I'm a wife, a mom, a grandma and now a great grandma. I write articles and reviews, and I dabble in short fiction. I enjoy living near the ocean, doing gardening (for beauty and food) and traveling - in other countries, if possible. My heart is for Christian missions, and I'm compiling a collections of Missionary Kids' stories to publish. (I also like kittens and cats and reading mysteries.)

16 thoughts on “Never a “Sense”less Moment – Writing the Big FIVE.”

  1. One of the best, if not the best, descriptions of food and places ever! Thank you, Jackie. Superb. I hope everyone is printing this blog out for reference. Tons of tips to be gleaned. One can taste the pasta, feel the cobblestones, and smell the aromas. Terrific, Jackie! Ah, pie, where is thy sting? (Sorry, Billy)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh Jackie, what a marvelous post! I drooled through a lot of it. And you are so on the mark about bringing sensory perceptions to our writing. And definitely agree with Jill, these are the best sensory descriptions about food I’ve ever read. You “took me there” immediately, one of the main keys, I think, to successful writing. Excellent, and thank you!

    (I’m going to work on describing chocolate–which I love) Not as easy as I thought it would be…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is nothing in the States that compares to the cheeses, Gelato, or breads you find in Italy! Or that glorious hot chocolate! At least writing about foods won’t put on calories. (haha) Thank you for your gracious comments, Madeline.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It is shocking to say the least. And it’s a bit like Russian Roulette, Jackie Vick. You spin, and you may get a good tasting Jelly Belly, or one that is gag and choke worthy.


  3. Loved your post, Jackie. Felt like I was there (and wish I truly was!). Traveling to a very different place does heighten the senses, which we can channel into creativity. I’m convinced my wedding photos were so spectacular because my photographer had just returned from his first trip to Europe. It sharpened his eye to see things differently and he captured our special day in many unique ways. Your exercises are a great reminder to take advantage of our senses even when we’re homebound. Now I must step outside to relive the scent of summer rain hitting the hot pavement.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, Miriam…. the scent of rain hitting a hot pavement! What an evocative illustration. I could remember it the moment I read your comment.
      Thanks for sharing, and for reading. I’m sure you could write a similar post on the places you’ve been.


  4. Each of those exercises was a total workout in a gym, but a great way to think about the world around us in words. As a writer we do need to write using all five senses. Thanks for whipping us into shape.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess after talking about all those fantastic, mouth-watering foods….. I thought we needed a good work out! Thanks, Gayle. You are one of the great proponents of SHOWING, not TELLING.


  5. Jackie, this post is worthy of a master class. I’m always working on describing the senses and find it quite challenging. You make it seem effortless. I must book a trip to Italy, but in cooler weather. While I got to imagine your scrumptious food, I’m living the weather—here in Virginia I’m moving through that wet heat, my hair is limp, my skin sticky, clothes clinging.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Maggie. When you are experiencing such marvels, it’s easy to write about them. If you DO go to Italy, avoid or stay only a short time in Rome. Go up into Tuscany, take a cooking class, and a tour through narrow, walled lanes and quaint villas to the the vineyards and olive orchards!


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