Tour of the Five Senses: Touch

Welcome back to our "Tour of the Senses!" Everyone got their SIGHT passport stamp from our first leg? Good! (And, if you missed it, you can check out the post here).

Today, we're moving on to the second of the five senses - TOUCH.

Touch can convey incredible amounts of information and emotion. It’s something we already use in our writing…because, how could we not?! It’s all around us. Still, sometimes we get so caught up in the action we can overlook even this important sense.

Characters Doing the Touching
This is the most obvious form of description with touch. Your MC touches the bark of a nearby tree—it’s leathery, with spikes, not at all like the trees he’s used to back home. We’ve learned something about both the character and the world. Remember, characters can touch objects, other characters, creatures and, if you’re writing fantasy, they might be able to “touch” things mentally or emotionally too.

Texture and temperature are two important aspects to consider when describing touch. And, though hands and fingers are the most common way characters interact with their sense of touch, they're not the ONLY way. Feet, knees, elbows, they can all bump into something or scrap up against it. Think about walking in a cold, pebble-bottom river in bare feet.

Things Touching the Characters
If they’re smart, your characters aren’t going to be too eager to touch a basilisk to feel whether its skin is scaly or leathery…but that basilisk sure could slither right up next to them anyway! Especially in battle or action, there are a lot of interactions that happen TO characters.

Using touch is a way to describe how those interactions affect them. Like the renegade who suddenly feels the lady’s long silken nightsleeve brush his skin. What emotions does that wanted or unwanted touch bring? Show us.

The Effect of a Touch

This builds on what we just mentioned. The actual touch is the first step—then comes the reaction, the emotion, the RESPONSE. A touch can mean love or hate and everything in between. If you feel a gloved hand close around your face, you’re sure as heck going to scream and run-away. Even without knowing anything else about the situation. Keep your readers in that moment long enough to show us how your characters react to the touch you’ve described.


Let’s add a little touch to what we started last week.

Lovers on a Beach
I couldn’t see the stars, not directly, but I didn’t know how they could possibly top their reflection in his eyes. His skin was slick, smooth and hard, though tender enough to give where my fingers caressed it.

Were-bats Attack!!
I saw them. Dozens of them. Winging at me with their little claws out—furred, like a bear’s, not feathered. And then all went black. Omigosh, had one of them landed on my FACE?!

My hand grappled in the night, found something that felt like lace spun in a consistency of dead things. It sunk in when I pressed hard, and I stifled a cry of horror.

What are some of YOUR favorites aspects of describing touch?


  1. Aaaargh, not the were-bats!!!

    I like to add touch to the more fantastical elements of my novels to ground them in reality. It's also a great way to add some horror :D

  2. Yuck to the bat! So true that we need to incorporate all the senses in our writing. Great examples.

  3. Good examples. The entire body is one sense of touch, so it can be felt anywhere.

  4. Touch is certainly very important. I agree with Alex.

  5. Great examples! Touch can tell a lot about a place, and I like how you mention it can tell where a character is from too, how his world is different than the one he's in now.

  6. I love, in particular, your advice to use the senses (in this case touch) to convey more than one thing, and your example of it conveying character and place. Excellent.

  7. I really like your examples. Sometimes even when a character just imagines what touching something would feel like, that's enough to bring that sense into the story!

  8. Miss Cole - Watch out, they're loose! I agree. Touch is a good way to describe a complete unknown or something fantastical.

    Natalie - Thanks!

    Alex - Absolutely. Touch can be incredibly powerful.

    Jo - Thanks for stopping by!

    Cherie - Well, I DO love describing other worlds. :)

    Lynda - Glad you liked it!

    Julie - Oh, excellent point. The imagination could almost be a "sixth sense" in itself. Maybe I'll add it to the tour. :)

  9. I love describing how something feels with words. Touch is very important, but it can bring the reader right into the story if the description is done correctly.

    Love this little series!

  10. This is a cool series :)

    PS: Your recent comments were very touching :)

  11. I like using touch, because the moment you bring it into a scene, the reader gets drawn into it as well.

  12. Miranda - Yes! Exactly.

    Mark - Thanks. And you said "touching" on purpose, didn't you? Since this is a post about touch and all. Haha - I get it!

    Vanessa - Thanks so much!

    Misha - Absolutely. It carries so much power.