Jill Weatherholt

Writing Stories of Love, Faith and Happy Endings While Enjoying the Journey

Ouch!

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Image courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

Image courtesy of  CNaena @ http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

“Of all the senses, sight must be the most delightful.”  ~ Helen Keller

I’d never seen anything like it. The blooms were the color of Florida tangerines. Like my favorite throw blanket, it looked soft and fuzzy.  I had to feel it. As soon as I did, regret set in, as did a piercing pain in my right hand. Lesson learned – you can’t touch everything you see in the desert.

This wolf in sheep’s clothing was a desert plant named Cylindropuntia Fulgida, also known as a “jumping cholla or the “teddybear cholla.” The name comes from the ease the stems detach when brushed or when someone like me is unlucky (dumb) enough to touch it.

After I extracted the needles from my swollen palm, I realized at first glance, the desert appears lifeless and brown, void of life. I was wrong. The Arizona desert explodes with flora and fauna. By only relying on my sight, I was limiting myself to the beauty the desert has to offer.

As a beginning writer, I’ve discovered how important it is to use all five senses. I want the reader to smell the story’s reality, to feel it, to taste it, to see it, and to hear it. If I can make them feel as though they’re a fly on the wall, I’ve done my job.

While reading, I love to have my memory sparked by a description that uses one or more of the five senses. If it’s a pleasant memory, that’s an added bonus. It’s nice to read what a scene looks like, but including the sound of the coyote’s howl or the smell of the desert air after the monsoon rains, pulls the reader closer and they become more than an observer of the writer’s fictional world.

A lesson was learned that first day in the desert. The sense of touch can not only be pleasurable, but it can be painful. During the rest of my time in Arizona, I saw more beautiful chollas, but I resisted the urge to touch. Instead, I enjoyed the sweet smell of the blooms from a distance because there’s a reason they call them “jumping cholla.”

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Author: Jill Weatherholt

My name is Jill Weatherholt and I’m a writer. I have a full-time job, but at night and on the weekend, I pursue my passion, writing. I write modern stories about love, friendship and forgiveness. I started this blog as a way to share my journey toward publication and to create a community for other new writers. Raised in the Washington, DC area, I’ve lived in Charlotte, North Carolina since 2004. I hold a degree in Psychology from George Mason University and a Certification in Paralegal Studies from Duke University. My first book, SECOND CHANCE ROMANCE, will release in March, 2017. It's now able for pre-order on Amazon. I was the first place winner in the Dream Quest One Short Story Contest in the Winter 2014-2015 competition. In 2014, I placed second in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest. I was also a top ten finalist in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest in 2012 and 2013. I’m a 2010 and 2012 winner of the NaNoWriMo Contest. I love to connect readers, visit me at jillweatherholt.com

37 thoughts on “Ouch!

  1. You’re so right about including the five senses in one’s writing. I find sound and smell detail particularly powerful. Have you discovered The Bookshelf Muse? It’s a fantastic resource that features every thesaurus imaginable. If you need to describe various weather phenomena, settings (barn, taxicab, ranch, restaurant, etc.) or physical attributes – it’s all there with sight, sound, and smell details to include in your description, as well as cliches to avoid. I’ve bookmarked this site and refer to it often: http://thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com/

    Enjoy the weekend, Jill 🙂

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  2. I only used sight and forgot smell when I first planted crown imperials and clary sage in my garden; I still grow them, just not so close to the house. I am working on my first novel and I have written about the triggers for memories on the second page (well, at the moment it’s the second page, I’m editing!) so I was interested to read your comments about stimulating all the senses when writing.

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  3. Ouch is right! I would have done the same thing. I am as bad as Curious George and I get myself into all kinds of trouble. I love your writing and I feel all kinds of senses when I read your work! 🙂

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  4. Many years ago, my mom kept a circular cactus garden in the front yard. Next door was a family, who were good people and good friends, but their daughter had a propensity to run around naked outside. She didn’t always look where she was going. Sometimes she fell.

    Can you guess how this story ends?

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  5. This is such great advice! I once had a professor in college stress the same thing – there are more than two senses, but a lot of writers tend to forget about everything that isn’t sight, or sound. I know I often forget as well and have to keep it in mind when I go back through and edit. It really does make a difference to include the feel of something, the smell of it…it makes the experience of reading about that event feel real.

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    • Your professor was right on, using all of the senses really brings the reader into the story. With your book, it would be very easy to incorporate smell and drive your readers straight to the kitchen. 🙂 Have a great weekend!

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  6. Great reminder today, Jill. It’s fun to use our memories/imaginations and integrate smells, feels and tastes into our writing, besides the usual sights (eyes were brown, hair was blonde, etc).

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  7. The more a writer appeals to all the senses, the more depth she offers in her story. Thanks for this great reminder, Jill.

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  8. Having grown up in a desert environment, I learned the dangers of cactus early on. 🙂 Great way to illustrate the use of all your senses, Jill!

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  9. Thanks, Phillip! I love the desert, it really is full of life and the heat is awesome! Have a great weekend!

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  10. This would be an excellent analogy to use in a classroom, Jill! I’ll be sure to steal it. 🙂

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  11. Great post Jill. A good writer arouses feelings in the reader. As you read, you can see, feel, and sense the authors emotions. I’ve had goosebumps sometimes when reading a good book!

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    • Thanks, Terry! When I look back at some of my earlier writing, I notice how much I depended on sight alone, which is common. There’s nothing better than having a few goosebumps while reading! Have a great weekend!

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  12. Ouch – Jill! You’re so much like me. I’m sure I would have touched it as well. We have sugar cane fields around our house and the cane looks lovely, but you don’t want to touch it with bare hands or walk through it because it has what we call ‘hairy marys’ in the stems that are needles as thin as a hair follicle. They get into the skin and are really difficult to get out 😯

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  13. I just couldn’t resist touching, it truly looked so soft. I never knew that about sugar cane, very interesting, sounds like splinters. Have a great weekend, Dianne. I hope you get some time out on your boat. 🙂

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  14. I do hope your hand is fine? I must admit I have to learn so much from you, had no idea about the five senses. I will have to read about it in order to apply these senses in my writings. What a lovely post Jill. Please take care of your hand I am more worried about it. I love the colors of the photo and the blooms look so beautiful and harmless. I guess I would have loved to touch them. Have a great weekend.

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  15. That wolf in sheep’s clothing must have hurt! Excellent writing tips. I will be sure to check out the Bookshelf Muse.

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  16. It sure did! I was surprised how something that looked so soft could be so painful to touch. I must admit, later during the trip, while playing a round of golf, my ball ended up in another cactus bush and I reached for it…..obviously I hadn’t learned my lesson. 🙂 Yes, definitely check out The Bookshelf Muse, it’s great!

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  17. I got “bit” by a cactus once–ouch! After reading through the comments, I must admit I neglect taste the most in my writing. 🙂

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  18. This totally happened to a friend of mine, who encountered jumping cholla. I’m sorry it happened to you. But what a vivid reminder of the need for sensory details!!!

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  19. I had a very wise neighbor who was in an accident and lost her hearing for awhile. She said that until then, she would have sworn that sight was the most precious of the senses. Later she changed that to “The most precious sense is the one you lose.”

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  20. The desert is an amazing place. Coming from New England, it was beyond anything. 🙂

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