5 weeks to go until this year’s Bath Short Story Award closes on Monday, April 11th.
Perhaps you’ve already written your story ─ or just a first draft? Or perhaps the current world events are so overwhelming you feel as if you’re in quicksand, weighted down and unable to think clearly, let alone creatively.
If a drain is blocked or your car won’t start, you can attempt to fix the problem by working through a series of stages, employing set mechanical solutions. Try the same with your writing, using one or more of the 5 senses as a starting point:
SIGHT: Look through your own holiday or travel photos and choose 5. Jot down the first words that come to mind when you look at each photo ─ e.g. colours, setting, people. See the photos with fresh eyes or tap into your memories.
SMELL: Collect 5 different things at home that exude a smell, such as a spice jar, disinfectant, perfume, coffee etc. See how accurately you can describe the smell and then write any words you associate with each one. In ‘Perfume: The Story of a Murderer’, Patrick Süskind creates a disturbing historical fantasy that revolves around the significance of smell.
Create descriptions and word association lists for the other senses:
TOUCH: Feel 5 different textures, possibly some unpleasant such as the underside of a plastic mattress protector or a metal cheese grater.
TASTE: Possibly the sense we enjoy writing about the most. Who can forget Joanne Harris’s ‘Chocolat’ ?
HEARING: Music can act as a trigger, but one exercise I used to do with students when I taught Drama was to focus on background sounds you hear when you think you’re sitting in silence. I’m not sure pure silence exists ─ but that might be a story in itself?
The best writing allows us to share the writer’s experience ─ to inhabit the landscape of the story. A handful of freshly-picked strawberries whose sweetness lingers on our tongues and teases our nostrils evokes a perfect June day while the stench of rotting fish could set the tone for a much darker tale.
Enjoy exploring the senses in your writing and not just the 5 basic ones. Some are more subtle and unusual, such as synaesthesia where colours can be associated with sounds. In fact, Elinor Nash’s ‘The Ghost Boy’, the winning story of the 2014 BSSA, was about a young boy disabled through a bike accident and his world of marshmallow and baked bean sounds.
Your story can be on any theme or genre but must reach us by April 11th and not exceed 2,200 words.