Most of us are taught we have five senses – sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. But many neurologists say there are nine and some list as many as twenty-one. The traditional five senses model is credited to Aristotle.
As a writer, five senses is good enough for me, although I may mention, unknowingly, other senses such as perception or the ability to remember. But if you don’t already mention senses in your writing, I recommend that your book(s) should include some of the traditional five senses. For instance, in my third book of the Fallyn trilogy, ‘Fallyn and the Sea Dragons’, when the four friends go on holiday to Ireland, Carla says, “Mm, this Irish bacon tastes so good, and the coffee is delicious.” Or you can be more subtle, like in a short story of mine when I mentioned touch, taste and smell in one go – ‘she licked her lips, tasted and smelled the salt in the wind’.
If you are writing about animals, it is important to remember that the senses can vary from humans. In animals, sense of smell, for example, is greater than the sense of smell in humans, while some animals may interpret sensory stimuli in different ways. Take dogs for instance, they seem to sense electrical and magnetic fields.
Personally, I dislike animals in stories acting like humans. That is why I dislike Toad of Toad Hall and his pals in ‘Wind in the Willows’, by Kenneth Grahame. They are too ‘human’ for me. Although I liked ‘Watership Down’; the rabbits spoke English (in rabbit language, I assume). But the author, Richard Adams, concentrated mainly on rabbit habits. He is purported to have said, I can’t write about humans. In ‘Fallyn and the Sea Dragons’ the sea dragons speak to each other, but apart from that they are not anthropomorphic animals.
I have mentioned before R M Lockley, the author of ‘The Private Life of the Rabbit’. The book taught Adams about rabbit characteristics. (Put into your search engine ‘R M Lockley’ if you want to know more about this famous naturalist. He lived in Pembrokeshire, where I used to live before I came to Spain in 2000. I read his ‘Dream Island Days’ about thirty years ago, published in 1943).
One of the writing groups, of which I am a member, run by Joy Lennick, author and editor, (her latest published novel is ‘The Catalyst’) asked us to include the five senses in a short story. It was an excellent exercise, because as well as the story including the senses, it enhanced the story’s emotional tone. Read more about Joy at http:/joylennick.wordpress.com/
In conclusion, there is no firm agreement about the number of senses because of differing definitions, but as I say above, it is important to include in your book at least some of the traditional five senses.