Connecting readers to a written work of fiction is no easy task. Unlike a film, there are no startling action sequences playing out on a giant screen or booming music to keep them glued to the story playing out. All a writer has are words on a page. But on the plus side, that text still has the power to jack into every one of a reader’s senses.
Sound contradictory? Think of it like this:
While big-screen spectacle and scores can be extremely effective, they offer a fixed perspective. For better or worse, every viewer is watching the same scene and hearing the same score or sound effects.
Reading is a far more subjective experience. Yes, the plot is fixed, but every description of a sight, smell, sound, taste, or physical sensation is going to conjure a different impression for each person. This allows the power of a reader’s imagination to run rampant, actually amplifying the visceral effect of these descriptions over what he might be able to experience in other media (provided the writer did his job well, of course). When someone watches a film adaptation of a favorite book, he often leaves the theater disappointed. Not only is this a result of the story being truncated to fit a running time, but because that full-body experience has been stripped down to just sight and sound, and even those probably don’t match what his brain originally conjured to fit the text.
Yellow eyes blazing in the dark like lumps of molten gold. Fingers slipping over the moss covering cold, wet rocks. Distant thunder rumbling in the heavens like the muttering of an angry god. The sweet tang of orange juice cooling a parched tongue. Strains of violin music tickling a woman’s ears with the last whispers of a dirge.
There is nothing writing can’t convey. Nothing. Every physical sensation is fair play and further connects a reader to the story and the characters populating it, replacing mere spectacle with an experience. Utilize all the senses to their full effect, and you might just make the real world fade out for a little while in the process.