My thumb pierces the skin of an orange releasing a mist and aroma that catapults me back to childhood Christmases in our tiny Kansas town. The annual Christmas program at our little church showcased the wonder of the true Christmas story along with a paper sack of treats after the last carol and prayer. Beneath the chocolates, hard candy, and peanuts in that sack, nested an orange. I'm sure we had an orange or two throughout the year but it was the Christmas orange that is embedded in my sensory memory. It is a memory so strong, I never peel an orange without revisiting it.
The senses of smell, touch, taste, and sound are sometimes even stronger than the sense of sight. Yet, we as writers often forget to include anything beyond what the eye sees in our descriptions.
A young man strolls along the docks of a fishing village in Colonial New England. His eyes are drawn to crates containing wondrous treasures being unloaded from the decks of a tall sailing ship anchored in the harbor. The sun sparkles off the bay forcing him to squint and nearly topple into a peddler's handcart.
It's a nice story but what about the sounds, smells, and textures of this scene? Sweating bodies, the scritch-scratch of his feet against uneven cobblestones, gulls screeching, the briny sea air--take your pick. Including all the smells and sounds would distract the reader but the perfect balance will provide more than just a painted picture. It will be a scene that is alive in your reader's mind.
Now, go peel an orange and see where it takes you.