Thursday, February 17, 2011
Writing About (Enhanced) Sensory Perception
In writing The Saeshell Book of Time serial novel, I intended to empathize with the journey a gifted child takes and metaphorize it into a science fiction/fantasy novel. I also intended to pass on a bit of philosophical thinking that can help those children analyze and cope with events they encounter in the world. After having been through three major drafts and having read some literature recently on giftedness, I realize one thing that I probably didn't do well is incorporate a sense of the heightened physical senses that sometimes become part of that journey. Mostly, the novel focuses on the heightened empathy.
I thought a bit about why that happened. Having heightened senses myself, you would think that I would include some of that in the novel. But then I realized there are two problems. The first is that humans really can't convey emotions or observation by our senses in our language. How do people write about sensory information? They use a metaphor that is meant to convey the information. The metaphor is usually a description of a person's reaction or an analogy for something all people experience inside when their senses are stimulated in a particular way. There is only one problem with these two methods of conveyance. What if I am not wired like you are? What if I experience things differently. I'll talk about it more in a minute, but just try and tell someone about being wired differently and see what you get.
If you experience things differently, there is no shared experience that can be conveyed between you and another person via some symbolic metaphor. It just doesn't exist. There is very little way to carry the actual raw data of the experience. I could say, for example, that certain color combinations are practically like a narcotic to me or that certain frequencies of sounds can cause total paralysis of my mind. You write that and people will say huh? That guy is kind of messed up. Which leads to the second aspect of this.
Negative feedback throughout your life, which causes you to suppress your senses and simulate in your mind what other people perceive. Imagine a simple scenario: My wife has a lightly scented pleasant smelling hand creme that she puts on in the next room. Husband's reaction: complaining and running for the nearest fresh air outlet. Wow, that can lead to a pleasant conversation. Or perhaps I'm out browsing the world and discover a tree, where the patterns of the veins in the leaves combined with the colors is extremely fascinating. Hey, dude, IT'S A TREE! Or perhaps in the overload case, where the patterns become so intricate that it produces a kind of pain in my brain, which copes by seeing nothing, frustrating people trying to share it with me. You get the idea.
So as I sit here trying to increase the characterization of the characters in the novel, I realize that due to this mental conditioning in my upbringing, which is refreshed on a daily basis in one way or another, I totally ignore a whole dimension in a character's persona. And I am at a loss for a way or the guts to express it.