Senses and History, Part One: Sight

Many of my blog ideas come to me while I am walking my dog or doing gardening. These are also the times when the best story plot twists arrive in my brain. Sadly, I usually lose those because I don’t write them down or my hands are too dirty to pull out my phone and make a verbal memo. I’m totally waiting for my brain implant that Bluetooth’s me to a central computer network.

 

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As I was saying, I walked my dog and observed the traffic on a nearby street, the birds at the small park, the clouds rolling by overhead, and the water in the flood control channel. I knew inside I would find my television set, my computer, and my e-reader. Sometimes I see people doing martial arts in the park, and on Saturdays, young girls practicing to be cheerleaders.

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Transport me back to London in 1806 and the noise of the traffic is different. Clip-clop instead of whirr-whirr. Fewer birds in the city, even in the parks. Gutters might gurgle with run-off, which will include sewage. Children will play with hoops, kites, and pull toys of horses. Dogs run around looking for food, cats slink into an alley.

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There may be a hot air balloon lifting off in Green Park, a crowd may have gathered to watch and shout jokes at the men trying to make the contraption work. Ladies will carry parasols and everyone wears hats.

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In the houses, the servants light the candles and keep a kettle on the fire for tea. The house shines with polish if the servants are doing their job. A fire may be in the hearth, a coal fire that belches soot into the city in scary amounts. To the citizens of that time, however, it’s nothing to worry about and nothing unusual.

Move back in time again, to Londinium, when Romans ruled the world, and you will see a wall around the city. You see soldiers on patrol and few children playing. They need to work with their family to keep food and resources coming in. Houses and buildings are mostly made of wood, with beautiful tile floors if the family or business is well off. The center of town holds a market where many interesting and unusual items can be looked at and maybe bought.

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As a writer, using all five senses is vital to bringing a scene, a character, and a story alive. Advice I see often instructs that if you find a scene you wrote to be lacking in interest, go back and make sure you have used all five senses. As a writer of historical romances, I can’t step outside and use sights in my world to describe my scenes. I use time travel and writings of actual persons from Regency England to construct the best framework for my story. Imagine how much fun writing a scene in London’s sewers became.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday with Touch.

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