Writing with Soul: Using the five soul senses to tell deeper stories

 “Our bodies have five senses: touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing. But not to be overlooked are the senses of our souls: intuition, peace, foresight, trust, empathy. The differences between people lie in their use of these senses; most people don't know anything about the inner senses while a few people rely on them just as they rely on their physical senses, and in fact probably even more.” ― C. JoyBell C.

Story writers occupy two different spaces at the same time.  We are always stuck in the imaginary world where our characters and their lives seem more real than what we are able to perceive with our five senses. Writers are able to create entire worlds without even thinking about the process of doing so.  How does the writer effectively bring the world they've created to an audience of readers who are ready to suspend their belief in their reality and dive into the one created for them?  We live and die by the maxim--SHOW DON'T TELL!  But how can we show what can't readily be perceived by the five human senses?  If the readers have never tasted eparg-soup before, how can show what it tastes like?  If they've never seen noil. how are to describe it so they get a picture in their mind?

In this way, writing stories to appeal to the five human senses can be limiting.  We would be left with telling our readers exactly what eparg soup tastes like.  We lose the subtlety and mystique in our writing when we can't access the senses to create a picture with words.

Lucky for us writers who love tell stories, we have access to five other senses.  Some call them soul-senses, others call them higher-self sense; I simply call them tools or writing.  Like anything else I use in my writing to help tell deeper, more meaningful stories; it's important to humble myself before I start working with them.  Allow my ego to take a backseat and trust the  tools to show me how to use them to improve my writing.

What are soul-senses?

  1. Intuition-the understanding of knowledge without having a reason to understand; knowing 
  2. Peace-a balance state of being; free from the highs and lows of external and internal factors 
  3. Foresight-having knowledge of things to come before they occur; premonitions, precognition
  4. Trust-confident in belief all things will work out
  5. Empathy-the ability to understand how others feel without taking on their emotional state
The words, intuition, peace, foresight, trust, empathy, are not special or particularly difficult to understand; however, when used as tools of writing to address that which physical senses can't, some writers call bullshit and neglect them altogether.

It would be difficult to appeal to the soul senses of readers, if the writer is only in tune with the physical senses within themselves.  One would need to know how to activate and use tools before they attempted to appeal to them, right?  I mean, it would be akin to trying to write a novel in French, when the only language you know is English.  Could you do it?  Probably.  Would you be able to tell an effective story?  Really?!  There's no way in hell to use a tool you aren't intimately familiar and connected with in writing and make it work.  Like I used to tell my writing students, you have to know the rules before you're able to break them.

Soul-senses are an effective tool to create deeper plots, richer settings, more layered characters, and most importantly a more fulfilling experience for the readers.  Inversely, story writers who write from their soul-senses are more fulfilled, as well.  There is a symbiotic relationship between feeding the soul-senses of the reader with food derived from your own soul-senses.  And that's really the dream, right?  As a writer, we want to have that ongoing connection with our audiences.  Want them to keep coming back to us for more food... i.e., more stories.

There's a grand difference in feeding the minds of your readers with what I like to call, 5-sense writing and feeding their souls with soul-sense writing.

5-Sense Writing 

I hear the rain as it pitter-patters against the window just above my bed.  It's perfect for snuggling in the cozy blanket my mom shipped from back home.  It feels like I'm wrapped in one of my mom's big hugs. Nights like this, I kinda miss being at home surrounded by all my family. I can almost smell the char from the wood-burning fireplace in the family room; in front of which my dad is usually parked in his ugly recliner.  If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can see my mom sitting in her favorite chair with the knitting needles click-clacking away; making beautiful music that has been a part of the soundtrack of my childhood home for as long as I can remember.  

It's not until I feel the lonesome tear dribble down my nose towards my other cheek, I realize I'm crying.  I don't know why I'm blubbering so.  God, this rain, my blanket and the lingering taste of my mom's homemade banana-pudding bread, has put me in the most sentimental of moods.  Maybe I should call home, just to say hi.

In this example, the reader gets the sense of where the protagonist is, what's happening around this person and even a sense of their emotional state.  Appealing to the five human senses is a great way to show the reader what is going on.  Most people feel a sense of longing when there's a quiet rain.  Smell is the strongest memory connector and what feels better than a big hug from mom?  This works, but what if you want to tell a deeper story? Have the reader connect with your writing on a whole other plain.

I've always relied more on my soul-senses than my physical senses as writing tools.  I guess it explains why some of my writing is somewhat esoteric and pushes the boundaries of the romance genre.Writing to appeal to the soul-senses creates a deeper level of knowing for the reader.  Yes, I still want my reader to experience my stories through their physical senses; however, I want them to connect with my characters and their situations on a soul level.  You know what I mean?

Soul-Sense Writing

Today has been more thoughtful. Dull and moody. My bones are aching and my heart is heavy, it feels like rain.  The weather man said there was only a small chance of the wet stuff, but my bones never lie.  My mom must have known the weather was going to take a turn or why else would she have sent me my birthday blanket two months before my birthday?  In my mind's eye, I see her laying in a hospital bed.  It's only for a second, but my heart doesn't know it to be a memory of last year.  My heart beats faster than it needs to and I have see a different reality to get it to calm down again. I pictured her sitting in her favorite chair; knitting needles click-clacking away and I knew.  I just knew everything was as it should be at home.  

Dad, sitting by the wood-burning fireplace in his ugly blue and tan recliner.  Crumbs from my mom's famous banana-pudding bread mixed in with his wisdom-whiskers.  Ha, I love how he let me name his beard that at the age of three and to this day, that's what he calls it. I shake may head and allow the smile to settle into contentment on my face.  I take a deep breath, close my eyes and there it is.  That feeling.  The one where even if the sky cracks open and pours all of her sorrow and hurt, and fear over the world, I  will still rest easy.  Wrapped in the love and warmth my mom stitched into every row and square on my birthday blanket.

I push the tear from my cheek just as the first drop of rain falls onto my window pane. I miss them. Maybe I should give them a call, just to say hi.

Same story, same circumstances, but there's a subtle difference.  Can you pick it out? Do you know what it is or how it's done?  Alright, I'll give you a hint.  The difference is the tone.  The tone of the writer effects the mood of the reader.

There are several ways to achieve this affect when writing.  The easiest, is to get in touch with your own soul-senses and use them in your everyday life.  Writers don't have to work to write for the five human senses, that's easy.  The five soul-senses... that's a whole other ballgame.

I'd love to hear from you, leave me a comment below and tell me what you think about this article.  I'll answer any questions as best as I can.

Remember, writing is a journey and sometimes the Universe provides enchanted moments of clarity and creativity. Be brave, be beautiful, and be enchanting.

Enchanted Writing,


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