Monday, February 21, 2011

Immerse Yourself in the Moment

Eiffel Tower -D.G.Hudson
'Immerse yourself in the moment. Use your five senses to fully experience that moment.'

Not verbatim but paraphrased, that advice came from an author of thrillers who teaches advanced novel writing on the side. He suggested using the senses to add depth and enrich the story.

 Another author called it ‘zooming into the scene’ and using the senses to enrich the narrative or dialogue. Use the five senses to enhance the memory of the actual experience.

In this post, a place generates those images and sensory details of events. My apologies for the length, but the subject matter is lavish.

PARIS - filtered through the Five Senses


Versailles - golden spikes and gilded sun king emblems blaze atop the black wrought iron fence, square cobbled stones set unevenly cover the expanse of the courtyard behind the imposing entrance gate, multiple mirrors reflect the surrounding gallery in endless repetition

Eiffel Tower - first sighting causes involuntary intake of breath while one decides if we love it or not, elegant lines and delicate ironwork inscribe the lower portions, clothed in its bright night colours, the Eiffel decorates the evening sky

Stone Temple Pilots on guard - DGH
The Louvre - Medieval foundation of centuries old cut stones in basement, paintings from small to large wall size in dark tones or vivid washes of colour, rooms bursting with statuary, beautiful lady Mona guarded by 3 layers of bullet-proof glass and a velvet rope, Egyptian artifacts -- funerary, urns, weapons, jewellery - all lined up for review, blue Paris sky fractured by the glass pyramid above while the sunbeams warm the lobby below

Fractured sky - under the Glass Pyramid- D.G. Hudson

#54 Vincent lived here - DGH
  Outdoor displays of local artists in watercolour, acrylic, and oil with bright or pastel colours, residence #54 big blue door where Vincent Van Gogh lived with his brother, the crimson Moulin Rouge without the glamour applied, peering in the windows at Bateau L’Avoir studios (home to Picasso & other young artists), looking up at Sacre Coeur Cathedral, the bright ever-white stone commanding the mount of martyrs

The City at Large

16th and 17th century buildings with contorted, winding drainpipes in enclosed courtyards, boldly painted double gargantuan doors with brass trim -- sized for grand comings & goings

Leering gargoyles on Notre Dame Cathedral peering over ledges at the human ants below, minute sculptural detail on every side of this Gothic church; romantic couples strolling and kissing by the river, endless bridges of stone, wrought iron, and a mixture of the two crossing the Seine River every few blocks as it snakes its way through the city; a painting of grumpy aggressive steers staring at the diners in Bistro Marguerite


Fresh baguettes - everyone carries one on their way to work, or soft Nutello-Banana crepes sold by street vendors in front of the Musee D’Orsay, open produce and food markets, local bistro fare-French onion soup, curried chicken, steak and frites, fluffy omelettes, and chocolate desserts, slo-mo explosion of pepper shaker as it went cartwheeling onto the iron steps, breaking into glass chunks and sending a plume of pepper wafting up into the air at least 15 inches

Le Voltaire Cafe - Latin Quarter - DGH


Crunchy chewy baguettes, Breton crepes, chilled French wine with water on the side, dark French expresso laced with cream, broiled creamy ham and cheese sandwich called a ‘Croque Monsieur’, the caramel flavour of crème brulee, frothy beer and light quiche in Le Voltaire, French cod - a baked comfort dish of precooked whitefish, caramelized onions, and mashed potatoes


City noises - soft voices, polite greetings upon entering and exiting establishments, many languages but little English, homeless men sitting and talking in the cool morning air after sleeping over heating vents, musical language and soft laughter flowing out of small bistros with intimate sidewalk tables, the loud clear voice of the passing tour guide

Paris Traffic - No beep or honk of a vehicle goes unanswered in this rush hour cacophony of sound, screech of tires as traffic lights change, the buzz of the motorized scooters zipping between the lanes of autos, police sirens in the distance or under the window ledge


- soft, bunchable scarves wrapping male and female necks

- smooth statues in milky white, inset walls of marbled stone in burgundy, charcoal grey, or pink,

-rough stone counters, 6 foot tall double thick glass windows covered by wooden shutters in older buildings, cement stanchions in tiny side streets protect building corners

- enamel blue street signs mounted on the sides of buildings, 8 foot doors in the old town houses of the Marais district, unique wrought iron window and balcony railings

- square-cut stones form the streets in Pere Lachaise - City of the Dead; stone, metal and marble carved into unique family memorials, and cold stone benches for visitors to sit upon while studying the kiss-studded Oscar Wilde monument

. . .and the list goes on. . .


This post is a study (in part) for the Paris-based setting of another WIP.


  1. Yeah, the senses provide that immediacy that's so necessary for fiction. It's what pulls the reader inside the story, rather than having them on the outside looking in.

  2. You're so right, Bryan, and I'm trying to apply this exercise whenever something in a story is falling flat from lack of life. Those two authors did me a great favor with that advice.

  3. I love description, and yours here really drew me in. I cannot wait to read what you use from here in the final product.

  4. The 'final product' is in the works, J., and I'm hoping to weave a lot of the descriptions into the story. It's a story about choices. Glad you enjoyed reading the post.

  5. Great post, D.G.! I loved the photos and the elements you pointed out. A feast for the eyes!

  6. Thanks Misty for dropping by the blog and for your kind words!

  7. Sounds like you've closed your eyes and immersed yourself in these vignettes based on your previous open eyed and minded experiences whether actually experienced or done so vicariously. Details can really bring a scene to life and you are doing it well.

    Tossing It Out

  8. Thanks, Arlee, for stopping by my blog and for your comments.

    These images/vignettes were based on actual experience. I kept a journal while travelling in France and wrote every day of our experiences -- we took many many photos. I write as much as I can about it, while it's happening, so I can use it later. (Before the memory gets fuzzy.)

  9. So glad I zipped over to thank you for leaving a comment on my Writer's Digest guest blog. Couldn't miss the chance to say hello to a fellow switchboard operator. Your website is beautiful and so is this post. You certainly picked the perfect city to immerse your senses.

    In gratitude,
    Darrelyn Saloom

  10. @ficwriter: The pleasure was mine - as I've seen your posts many times before, thanks to reading Jane Friedman blog. Just had to comment this time on a subject that resonated from the past.

  11. Hi DG. I'm here from the Pay It Forward blogfest and I just wanted to say thanks so much for signing up!

  12. The senses truly can work the imagination, should always try and stop and take them in. Also blog hopped your way!

  13. @Pat - nice of you to drop by. Hope you visit again. That blogfest was fun, and I'm still checking a few this weekend.

  14. i missed the pay it forward hop, so stopping by fashionably late! nice to meet u :)

    i went to the catacombs in paris... spooky!

  15. I visited the Louvre back in '05 and will never forget the experience.

  16. @Jeremy - we visited the Crypte Archeologique instead, which told the story of the early Parisiennes and the Roman settlements. It's found in the Notre Dame square, underground. It's better than all those bones.

    I have a few more posts about Paris in mind, so drop by again. Thanks for following.

  17. @Milo - We spent about 4+ hours walking around the Louvre (we were there at opening time so were able to get better photos before the crowds rolled in). We'll have to get back there again. We missed seeing one wing of the beautiful old palace.

    We also visited a few of the smaller museums which have a wealth of info about the French Revolution and their history (Cognac-Jay, and Musee D'Orsay, and Musee Carnavalet). The Picasso museum was closed - that was disappointing but what can one do?

    Like they say, there's something about Paris.

    Thanks for following, and stay tuned for more Paris memories.

  18. Found your blog from the blogfest. Glad to have! Looking forward to more of your a new follower. :)

  19. Welcome, Murugi, thanks for following my blog. Hope you'll visit often.

    I kept checking on other blogs this weekend as well, it's amazing how many writing blogs are out there.

  20. The senses are important, but can be overused as well.

    By the time I was reading your 'tastes' section, I got so hungry. Thanks a lot.

    It sounds like a fantastic place to travel to.

  21. @Draven - part of that exercise in 'Immerse yourself in the Moment' was to bring back all those memories while they were still fresh.

    If it made you feel hungry, then maybe the descriptions worked? I know what you mean about overkill though. Point taken.

    Thanks for stopping by, please visit my blog again.


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