Editing for Sensory Language Part 4 Touch

~ The Way It Feels ~

Close your eyes. Reach out and touch something nearby. Concentrate on how it feels to your fingertips. When we touch something a giant network of nerves are activated sending information to our brains.

If we have touched something similar before, our brain may make a guess as to what it is we are touching. If it something we never felt before, we may pull back in dismay. What we are feeling is the texture of the surface or object. A cat’s fur is soft. A pan on the stove is hot. A sharp needle causes pain.

Touching texture

Touching Texture

Our skin can identify surface quality, temperature, and determines the amount of pain or pleasure the texture we are touching gives. When we touch something, we feel it with the nerve endings in our skin. How we perceive a texture is also related to with what part of the body we use.

We feel with our whole body. Different parts of our bodies are more or less sensitive in different ways. We pet cats with our fingers and palms, not the back of our arm. Research shows we have three different types of nerve sensors. One type relays critical signals like cuts and burns. The second responds to temperature and itches. The third one reacts to slow gentle touches and gives us pleasure. So while our fingers and tongues have the most nerve endings for critical signals, it is our backs that are more sensitive to slow, gentle touches.

When to Add Textures and Touching in Our Writing

Unless our nerve endings have gone numb for some reason (a hard hit or cut off in blood flow can do that), our tactile sense is always on. We feel textures every moment of the day. Therefore, describing a texture is a way to add reality to a scene for the reader. Textures draw the reader deeper into the scene as they experience the texture along with the character. If the character is being touched gently, the reader will feel that same touch in their mind. The description also draws attention to the item being touched – giving it more importance in the scene.

Add a texture when the character:

  1. Touches any object or item in the scene that is of import.
  2. Puts on and takes off clothing, or when the clothing or fabric is annoying or comforting in some way.
  3. Enters a room and touches a surface – like when a table top is sticky with syrup or highly polished.
  4. Is outside and touches something in the environment.
  5. Is eating food – describe how it feels in the mouth, against the teeth, when it is swallowed.
  6. Fights or flees or plays a sport. Describe the texture of the ground under the feet, the feel of the surface of the weapons or equipment.
  7. During romantic scenes.

In describing the texture remember you can focus on the surface quality – is it smooth or rough, the temperature – is it cold or hot, and the sensation – is pleasant of painful.

Some Touchy Examples

Here are some examples of tactile description from my upcoming romantic suspense release Close to the Skin Book 2 in the Skin Quartet.

“Cold radiated through the soles, up her legs, and under her skirt.”

“The sides of his hands scraped against the concrete.”

“The soggy bun stuck to her teeth. The meat had the texture of granulated cardboard.”

Texture Resources for Writers

400 Words to Describe Texture

Clothing Textures

Food Textures

Mouthfeel

Over 400 Adjectives to Describe Texture


Do you use enough textures in your writing?


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