WEbook Interviews: The September Challenge Winner - Dollys


September 2016 was a little while ago now, but that doesn't mean we can't still learn some important lessons from the challenge brief.

For the September Challenge, we asked you to write using all of your senses ... except for sight. This meant that the challenge entrants needed to focus on using smell, touch, taste and sound as the descriptive vessels in their stories. 

Sounds simple, right? You might be surprised to discover that this is actually an unassumingly tricky task, but it's also really great writing practice (because of course it is!).

When we experience things day-to-day, we don't rely on just our sense of sight to form a memory or experience. Instead, we combine the stimuli from each of our senses together to create a fuller, more enriching experience. So it makes sense that you would relay this on the page for your reader.

It's all well and good telling you that you should write using all your senses, but what does that actually mean and how can you incorporate it in to your own writing? It's like that infuriating sentence that all self-satisfied writers like to tout:

'You must show, not tell.' 

YES ... BUT HOW? (scream the rest of us collectively)

Well, although we're not able to answer that particular unknown, we have found some great posts on the topic of writing with your senses, so you can read through them at a leisurely pace and maybe find yourself a bit closer to becoming a ... show-er.

You'll find them just before the interview...

Now, we all l-o-v-e a metaphor, and here's a great one to get you started. Think of writing with your senses like adding 5-spice to your recipe. It's a great all rounder, it'll bring out the flavour and also pack a bit of a punch so that you remember what you've just eaten ... or read. But it's also important that you have all of the ingredients in 5-spice to get the rounded flavour profile you're looking for.

Just like 5-spice has five ingredients, you've got five senses. The way you use each of these senses in your writing should be well balanced, just as your own practical and everyday use of them is balanced. There are evidently situations where some senses take dominance over others. Yet it is often in these situations that utilisation of the other, less dominant senses, can have the best impact on your writing. How? By providing the reader with a more intimate impression of the moment. Let the reader know how your character's jumper feels on their skin; how the smell of coffee interrupted their thoughts and the tinkling of the door chimes stole their attention away for just long enough to miss the announcement on the radio...

If you think you'd like to have a go at trialling your own sensory experiments, we've come up with  five situations, each of which conveniently removes one of the main senses. Once you think you've mastered this, you can give your characters back all their senses, but try to remain mindful of what you have learnt when you start your next piece.

Tip: try each in these first person and then in the third person:

👀 SIGHT: There is a bright flash and suddenly you cannot see

👂🏼 HEARING: You hit your head on a branch whilst walking through the woods and loose the ability to hear

👃🏾 SMELL: Following a botched nose-job, you awaken to find you can no longer smell

👅 TASTE: There's a chilli eating competition. You win, but you never regain your sense of taste

👋🏿 FEELING: You have an out-of-body experience; you are a spirit / ghost / etc.

If you'd like to find out more about writing with all of your senses, these blog posts contain some great tips:


Our September Challenge entrants used a whole host of scenarios to explore their use of sensory depiction in their writing, but as ever, there must be a winner! 

The winning entry to September's Challenge: Sights and Sounds, was 'A Close Shave' by Dollys. In her entry, Dollys utilised a situation that most of us can sympathise with first hand ... a hangover. Think grating headaches stuffed with sandpaper tongues and paired with a persistent ringing in your ears ... sound familiar? 

Dollys was kind enough to have a chat with us about her entry and how she approached using the full breadth of senses in her writing. 


WEbook: Congratulations on winning the September Challenge: Sights and Sounds with your entry, ‘A Close Shave’. 

The topic of this challenge was to focus on using senses other than your eyes in your descriptions. Initially, this seems pretty easy, but the challenge is in the detail… did you find yourself mentally striking out visual descriptors, or was this sensory approach an easy one to handle?

Dollys: I focused on the remaining senses: Taste, Touch, Sound, Smell. Highlighting these in my mind, as I wrote, seemed to work. As a final check I re-read the piece, specifically looking for any 'sight' reference that may have slipped in. I enjoy the challenges and they do make the writer draw on their skills to roam in places outside the comfort zone.


WEbook: What do you think you learned, if anything, from this approach to writing? Was it surprising how much you automatically rely on the visual, or do you find that you naturally gravitated towards using alternative sensory descriptors anyway?

Dollys:  I learned that writers are able to adapt. All WEbookers who entered this challenge used their creativity, technical ability and their enjoyment of the written word to meet the challenge. I used to think it makes the characters and scene more real if you can apply all the senses. However having left one out did not detract from the tale being told.

WEbook: Your story was humorous, and probably more relateable than many people would care to admit. Did you take the inspiration for this from a personal experience – meaning the lunch, rather than the story’s climax – or was it originally conceived?

Dollys: I have been advised to 'write about what you know (refers to FEELINGS you know about)'. So that is what I did here. It was based on a true event. And it was very funny at the time.

WEbook: Your character slowly wakes up - or comes to consciousness - as you set the scene for your story. Was the setup of this scene done so that you were forced to place focus on the non-visual elements, such as the ticking clock or the cold wind?

Dollys: Yes. I set the hangover scene to prompt the focus on non-visual elements. It seemed a perfect fit for the challenge.

WEbook: It’s quite some revenge that the wife comes up with … but a funny and unexpected ending. Any tips for wanting to add a comedic element to a short story for other writers?

Dollys: WEbook has some excellent comedic writers. Sometimes the comedy is found in the 'misunderstanding' between characters. Sometimes in the unexpected reaction to a common situation. Sometimes in the surprise twist at the end of the tale. My tip would be to watch comedy and see how it has been crated by others - learn from the material that makes you laugh yourself. Then try and craft it into your own style.

WEbook: What else have you written? Is there somewhere we can read more of your work?

Dollys: On WEbook I have a Project called DOLLY MIXTURES which is a collection of short tales. I also have a novel on WEbook called the Lady of Shallorah. Due for an edit at some point. Outside of WEbook I have completed the NaNoWriMo challenge, 2016.

WEbook: Who is your favourite writer / what is your favourite book, and how has it or they influenced you?

Dollys: Stephen King / Anne Rice. Thrillers and the supernatural. Also various 'whodunnits' with twists and turns. I think the ease in which their books pull the reader in and the way they take you through the story to its conclusion, yet leaving you wanting more [is great]. There is influence for me from these and other writers who have the ability to create worlds or situations through creative and well-honed story-telling. My tales tend to be supernatural or fantasy type yarns.

WEbook: Brilliant! Everyone loves a good supernatural tale ... Thanks for taking the time to have a chat with us about your entry and your approach to writing. Best of luck in the upcoming challenges and we look forwards to reading more from you!


If you'd like to take part in WEbook's writing challenges, we run one every month - from the 1st (ish) until the end of the month. You could win a $25USD Amazon gift voucher, or a WEbook of your choice. Even if you don't win you'll likely get some critique and feedback from the other members and entrants, which is fantastic in itself. 

Happy writing!

- Hannah from the WEbook Team

Note: Interview edited for length and/or clarity

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