From an old LiveJournal post --- Sensory Triggers

Monday, April 11, 2011
About four years ago, my husband switched shifts at work and had to be there at Back then, we only had one car and I needed it to take Son to school. So every morning, the three of us got up, took Joe to work, then Son and I would go to the gas station. It was mid-January. Snowy. Cold. Son and I would get hot chocolates, maybe a donut.

Back at home, we'd hang out in my bedroom. I'd turn on VH1. Justin Timberlake's "What Goes Around Comes Around" played non-stop. Now, whenever I hear that song, I'm instantly taken back to those few months in the dead of winter. Hot chocolate in hand, music playing in the background, Son sleeping next to me because he always crashed out. I might have hated getting up so early, and I might have hated driving in the snow, but somehow those months stand out in memory, those dark, cozy mornings meaning more to me than the summer months that came after.

In Altered, Anna's life drastically changes around page 30. While on the run, certain things remind her of home, and those sensory triggers are important, for her and me. Brittle field grass shifting in the wind always reminds her of the field behind her house.

I realized Anna had several triggers, but it made me wonder, what about the other characters? This is something I think I need to do for every character. I don't think it matters what type of person they are---sensitive, stubborn, evil, plain---everyone can experience a sensory trigger. Even an evil wizard might be reminded of his childhood when smelling burning lizard tails. Right?

When I'm working on a project, I spend a lot of time on this site a free stock photography site where I gather photos that remind me of the book or the characters or the setting. Sometimes I make backgrounds for my computer with the photo and a line from the book so every time I open the computer, I'm greeted with the image. It always gets me in the mood. Here's one I made for Anna---

It doesn't just tell me something about the character or the setting, it makes me feel, because I'm so close to it. It helps put me in Anna's head, puts me in that enviroment. I find it helps a lot with writing. 
5 comments on "From an old LiveJournal post --- Sensory Triggers"
  1. I love your tip about using stock photos. Several years ago I used to choose pictures as writing inspiration, but I've slipped out of the habit recently.

    Stock photos seem like a great tool for sparking creativity at the start of a writing session. Thanks for sharing the idea!

  2. What an awesome idea with the stock photos. I'm SO trying that out this week.

  3. Skye---I find looking for photos is half the fun. Sometimes, I learn something new about the character or story when I stumble upon a photo that really speaks to me. Love that sort of discovery.

    Sarvenaz---I hope you find some great photos! Searching for the perfect one(s) is half the fun!

  4. I am seriously jealous of your awesome photo skills. I'll probably now waste entirely way too much time on that site. And I think you're right - every character should have that sensory trigger in them. In mine new WIP, the smell of old books is her trigger.

  5. Ooh, the smell of old books. That's a good one!

    Photoshop skills -- I'm not sure if I would call it skills, exactly. I still don't know half of my settings! Most of the time I just wing it and hope for the best. :D