Mina Vaughn, author of the sizzling How to Discipline Your Vampire, dishes on getting into the art of writing with all five senses…and the guilty pleasures that bring out her, um, creative side.
Chocolate melting on your tongue.
The whiff of a cologne that ignites a firestorm of memories.
Satin’s touch against your fingertips.
As readers and writers, we all love when the senses in a story are fully engaged. The escapism, the decadence, we want to experience it all. I have found that incorporating sensory triggers into my writing space (or bat cave, secret lair of romance novels, word dungeon) really helps ground my writing in the five senses and enhance the intimacy of the story on a physical level.
Let’s start with taste.
Stocking your desk area with a few selective treats can be rewarding on several levels. I know lots of friends who do “word sprints” and need a little something at the end as a reward for a job well done. Great, but how can that help your writing? Pick some hot cinnamon candies that explode tingly heat in your mouth. Let your tongue experience those nuances and get all your nerve endings firing. Chances are, some of that residual heat will end up in your writing. And if you’re reading, pop a salted caramel truffle during a love scene. Salt and sweet are both tastes associated with love, and enjoying that naughty snack could definitely boost your reading enjoyment. If you don’t like it, feel free to send me the rest of your box. I won’t mind if one’s missing.
Touch is easy.
I write BDSM, so sometimes when crafting some of the kinkier scenes in my book, How to Discipline Your Vampire, I’d sit in my leather chair while writing. The smell from it, the cool and rough texture, and the overall black and shiny appearance of it really helped me get in the right place to write bondage. I found myself tracing the arms of the chair, picturing a certain collar or flogger. Or, if your tastes are a little lighter, how about a furry ergonomic wrist pad? Run your hands through that for some therapeutic softness during a particular angsty scene. As a reader, I love to cuddle up with a book in bed. Silk sheets while reading romance? What’s better than that? (Hint: see truffles, above.)
Smell is something I use in my office when I need motivation.
If you’re close to a deadline and totally dragging to write those last chapters, I suggest a scented candle of the linen or soap-smelling variety. That clean smell just always perks up my attention and I’m able to clear my head out and carry on. Or, if you’re more literal, buy some coffee-scented potpourri. Another great trick is men’s cologne, and this one is cheap. Head to your favorite department store’s fragrance section. You can get the tiny samples of perfume and cologne, bring them home, and customize the smell of your hero or heroine. I love woodsy scents for my heroes. William, the submissive supernatural stud in How to Discipline Your Vampire, wears Burberry Brit, so I always had a nice little supply of that on hand. I still can’t smell it without swooning for Chilly Willy.
Sight is almost a no-brainer for this one. Hunky Firemen of Iowa calendar? Check. Sexy Veterinarian Men with their Puppies? Oh hell yes. Coming up with some eye candy (mmm, truffles) is easy, but you can do more than just poke Mister September through your cork board and call it a day. Create a Pinterest board and put photos from where your story is set. Imagine where you’ll go once your book hits the big time and put some future vacation destinations on the wall for some morale boost. One thing I like to do is find an actor that looks like my hero and make a little screensaver of him telling me I need to keep writing. One of my fans found the perfect William in the Spanish model Oriol Elcacho, so you can now go enjoy yourselves for a bit while Googling (and ogling him). You may as well order How to Discipline Your Vampire while you’re at it. *Hands you a truffle*
Lastly is sound, and this one is very subjective. I know a lot of people like to write in silence. Lots of folks can read with the TV on and it won’t bother them, but it would torment others. For me, I like music while I brainstorm, but not while I write. I like to queue up some songs that may line up with my story thematically, but not necessarily on the literal word level. Coming up with a playlist on Spotify or other websites is handy not just for your own writing, but when you’re published you can share the playlists with your fans and see what they think. I listen to a lot of punk music, so that has inspired my writing quite a bit. I also like ambient sounds and have this cool app on my iPad that has the sound of wind blowing and subtle rain. We’re not talking full-on thunderstorms or waterfalls, but I know that soft natural sounds definitely calm me down and put me in a no-nonsense Zen writer mode.
So, what works for me may not work for you, but enhancing your literary experience with sensory fulfillment is something you should try. Cuddle up with that good book and jar of Nutella. I won’t judge.