The last of the senses might be one of the easiest to use, but it depends on your personal opinion. I tend to find sight the sense that I utilize instinctively only because I think about what is in view when opening a scene. Still, touch turns up a lot and it’s entirely possible that you don’t realize it. The only way you can really avoid it is if every character goes through the story with no physical interactions with anything.
The most obvious use is physical contact between living things or living/inanimate objects. This can ranger from tender touching to friendly handshakes. Kissing, hugs, high fives, and whatever else you can think of involves contact. As the author, you can make note of a texture or condition of the person/object. By doing this, you give your story a tactile element. For example, the young woman felt his rough, battle-hardened hands on her shoulders. Sounds better than ‘she felt his hands on her shoulders’, right?
Something that I include in the ‘touch’ category is changes of pressure, temperature, and other environmental factors. This might be more of a fantasy thing where you can write about the feel of a fireball on an enemy’s skin. Then again, I’ve read Earth-based stories that talk about the feel of the sun’s warmth. My point here is that it doesn’t always have to be something solid against the skin. Pleasure and pain can fall into this category too.
An important part of touch is the reaction of those involved. To give the sense some depth, you need to describe the sensation. A character can run his hands along a new suit of armor, but that’s very basic. Have him describe the smoothness or any imperfections depending on the situation. You can even do it in exposition. Like the other senses, a key component of evoking them in the reader is to have them be a descriptive reaction. How are they to know a the pear that is being picked up is soft or hard without you mentioning it in some way?
Some tips to utilizing touch in writing:
- Most living creatures interact with their environment through touch. From the worm in the soil to the eagle in the skin, their skin feels something. You don’t have to always say what a character feels, but it is a way to demonstrate what condition the environment is in. For example, rain battering their faces.
- Most living creatures use physical contact in social interactions. Think about the situation that they are in and use proper touching/contacts to help pull emotion out of the words. For example, a person putting an arm around a crying friend and feeling their body shuddering with every sob.
- Using touch during dialogues can help build the scene. This shows that the characters aren’t standing still chatting, but moving around and doing things. Think of it as bringing life to a conversation.
- Impacts and reactions to injuries can improve an action scene.