Thursday, November 21, 2019

River Otter – A Study of Sensory Perception in Creative Writing blog post #363

Courtesy of
Not much comment these last two weeks on Dooper and Dangle, but there sure were a lot of hits. Surprisingly, viewers from Hong Kong were the most numerous, followed by Russia, the US, and the Ukraine. Curious, huh?

As some readers know, I co-teach a free creative writing class called Wordwrights every Monday at Albuquerque’s North Domingo Baca Multigenerational Center. Our members are published writers, beginning writers, people considering taking up writing, and individuals who just like to be around writers. We are novelists, short story writers, memoirists, poets, essayists, and whatever else you can dream up. The class is open, so members attend when they wish and skip when something gets in the way. We usually have between 17 and 25 in attendance at any given meeting.

The class spends the first thirty minutes listening to my co-mentor discuss writing techniques, writing rules, and writers who have caught his attention, after which various members of the group read a 1,000-word passage from their own work. The class then comments on the reading, suggesting where it works and where it misses the boat. We have some excellent writers, and it is heartening to note improvements when they show up.

One thing I have noticed is that many writers neglect to include the five principal sensory perceptions in the writing. Otherwise good passages can be immeasurably improved by letting your characters hear, touch, see, smell, and taste. By doing so, you allow your reader to share these sensations.

By way of example, I would like to include a revised passage from the book River Otter, an erotic historical novel written by my fellow Okie, Mark Wildyr. The time period is the 1860’s, setting is Dakota Territory, and the individual concerned is a Yanube Indian (mythical Siouan tribe) known as River Otter by his tribesmen and Joseph Strobaw by the whites. In the following short scene, Otter, who has been educated by the legendary Red Wintay (Billy Strobaw to the European community), is leaving his home at Teacher’s Mead to meet Major James Morrow, a friend of Billy’s, to help establish a farm on Turtle Crick. Otter arrives before James and prepares for the night. Earlier that day, Otter defended himself and his kin by killing a white marauder.

Excerpt from
By Mark Wildyr

I was tired. It had been a long, demanding day. The shooting of a human being took its toll on any caring, feeling man, and I considered myself to be of a sympathetic nature. I picketed the two horses on opposite sides of camp to double the chances of detecting unwelcome visitors. Patch was trained to give warning of predators. The mare was a shadow jumper. The sound of a small creature moving in the nearby brush drew the attention of both horses. I eased tensed muscles as they resumed grazing.
After settling on the coarse blankets of my bedroll, I breathed a silent song to the Great Mystery. The spread of the heavens—shot through with glittering stars, both noble and mean—made a vast dome of the black sky. I studied the Seven Persons, which Billy had called the Big Dipper. A faint breeze cooled my face and carried the comforting rustle of swaying boughs gently to my ear. The heavy fragrance of pines on the hummock—so different from the scant perfume of cottonwoods along the crick bank—laid the sharp taste of resin on my tongue, or so it seemed. I stilled my doubts, calmed my breathing, and closed my eyes to slip away into sleep.

While this is a passive passage, not an action scene, we hear, see, taste, touch, and smell the things that Otter does. Including the senses in the passage brings us right along with Otter. This is a lesson writers—even seasoned authors—have to learn over and over again.

The Voxlightner Scandal was released lat Tuesday (the 19th). The following are buy links for the book”

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

My personal links: (Note the change in the Email address because I’m still getting remarks on the old PLEASE DON’T USE THAT ONE.)
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:

See you next week.


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