Sensory Triggers Part 2

Friday, December 9, 2011

Before you read this post, listen to this song (or at least the first minute or so):

Whenever I hear this song, I get this vivid feeling that it belongs to a story I’ve yet to write. That feeling comes through unsure, like a voice crackling through an old radio. I see a girl. She’s blonde, slight, and she’s sad. She’s looking out a window as sunlight pours through the lace of dirt and grime. I know she’s waiting for someone, or missing someone, but I’m not sure who.

I know there’s more, I can sense it in that split-second image, like there are conflicts and emotions on the outer edge that I can’t yet see. And I want to see. I want to see so badly.

I’ve talked about sensory triggers before, from a character’s perspective, but those were tied to memories. This girl is completely made up. So why do I feel so strongly about her?

Sometimes I wonder if writers experience the world differently than others. I’m not trying to sound better than non-writers (oh no, we writers are crazy, we are not better in any way!). It’s simply introspection on what it means to be a writer. 

Whenever I’m on the beach, and it’s windy, and the waves are crashing against the shore, I’m reminded of this reoccurring dream of mine that goes like this:

I’m running down the street. It’s pouring. I catch flashes of the ocean to my right in the alleys between houses. I know where I’m going. I need to hurry. Hurry. Hurry before he leaves.

I reach my destination---a house on the ocean with cornflower blue siding and crisp white trim---and push through the front door. I see him in the living room in full military uniform, a beret in his hands. He looks at me. Regret and sadness pinch at the corners of his eyes and I want to yell, Why didn’t you tell me you were being deployed? But I’m just glad I caught him before he left.

His name is Jordan. And still to this day I miss him, this boy I’ve never met, who deployed for some nameless war and never came back to dream-me.

There is a story there. My emotions are so strongly tied to that dream that just being near a stormy beach makes me sad. Do non-writers ever feel this way? And if they do, do they ignore it? Discard the feelings as insignificant because they were dream emotions?

I have no thoughtful or provoking conclusion to this post. I wish I did. I merely wanted to examine this sort of thing, whatever it is, and see if there were other writers out there with similar experiences.

Do any of you have fictional characters/emotions/scenes that are triggered by something specific? The smell of something sweet? The weather? The sound of rain?

2 comments on "Sensory Triggers Part 2"
  1. YES. Yes to allofit. Ever since I was a child my dreams have been so vivid, so real, that my actions during the following day are directly affected by what I dreamt the night before. It must be a writer thing, because I have stronger connections to some of my dream people than I do to many people in the real world. I feel their emotions. I can't look at a picture of a sunset over the beach without thinking of a dream I had. I can't look at a room painted with an underwater theme (how common are those really? I'm not confronted by that one too often :-) without thinking of a little boy from a dream I had only once. Same goes for a grassy field full of lightning strikes, a girl standing solid and alone, arms stretched high, begging the lightning to strike her next. Any time heat lightning sans rain strikes, I think of that teenage brown-haired girl. I could keep rambling, but you get the gist. Sensory triggers are a huge part of what makes our writing intriguing to others.

  2. Oh, definitely! So many random things trigger connections to characters I may not even know the names or appearances of yet, but I can sense them, and because of that trigger, they never go away. Sometimes it makes me feel crazy...but then I remember I'm a writer! XD

    For years, I had a pair of nameless characters in my head I knew nothing about, but I had a strong sense of who they were, anyway, since they very vocally owned certain songs I heard. One of those songs made them come alive more than ever this year, and I am finally able to write their book! :)