Thursday, September 10, 2009

Authentic Storybook Culture

By Nichole Giles

Last weekend my family visited a local Latin festival. My husband served his church mission in Mexico, and has always had a deep love of the Latin culture. That love has apparently rubbed off on me and our kids.

Actually, though, now that I think about it, I’ve always loved the culture myself, for different reasons. Having spent some of my most critical growing-up years in Arizona within a few hours of the Mexican border, I experienced lots of small tastes of those same customs, albeit somewhat Americanized.

So we went to this festival, and the minute we got out of the car, the music touched my ears and made me want to dance. Ladies in colorful, full skirts danced with trays of glasses on their heads, and then men in Aztec headdresses with feathers taller than them danced a tribal dance. The scent of cooking, marinated meat permeated the air, causing my mouth to water and my stomach to growl. We ate authentic tacos—YUMM-O!—and walked among the booths, where local people sold hand-made goods, jewelry, and piƱatas. As we meandered, we ran into some close friends from Mexico, and conversations commenced in a mixture of English and Spanish, and for a little while, it almost felt like we were visiting another country.

The effect of ambiance took me temporarily away from my own cares and worries in the city near my house, and transported me to another country and another situation. It was a nice break, and a wonderful day.

This is the same kind of thing I want to accomplish with my writing. When I pick up a book, I hope to be transported to the setting, become friends with the characters, smell the air, taste the food, and feel the warmth of sun or cold of the snow. I want to be there. For a lot of people, books are a portable, affordable vacation. It is the small, important details that help them enjoy visiting the setting of your book.

To do this, it’s important to remember that we have five senses, and use each sense as often as possible in our writing. Sensory details connect readers with the characters and setting, and leave them unable to put down the book.

Well, okay, plot plays a part in that, too. But put the two together, and you have a potentially explosive piece of writing that people are dying to read. Let’s face it. Everyone wants to be transported into their favorite story, and as authors, it’s our job to get them there.

In the meantime, try something new so you can share it with your readers. There’s nothing more authentic than life experience. So go out, experience life, and then go home and write about it.

Until next week, write on!



Carolyn V. said...

Oh! How fun! I'm writing a book where part of it happens in Mexico. I'm so excited!

I love using the 5 senses. It really does transport a reader into the story. =) Great post!

Nichole Giles said...

Thanks, Carolyn. It really is fun to have a little taste of a new place when we read.

Mexico should be fun. Me too!


L.T. Elliot said...

Thank you for the excellent escape and reminder to use all of the senses. I totally read to escape and I got to do that in this post. Thank you.

Nichole Giles said...

Well, you're welcome, L.T. I'm so happy to help.

Personally, whenever I read I fully expect to step out of my world and into someone else's. That's the point, right?