Monday, October 4, 2010

Sensory Deprivation

One morning, nearly a year ago, I stood up after sitting on my foot for too long. I don't know if it ever touched the ground. It must have, but I never felt. All I remember is falling afterwards, and my sister laughing at me.

This, of course, had happened countless times before. Both the numb foot and the fall (my balance is not very good). That particular time, though, was special, because it sparked something in the writer in me. Questions, and a character!

I wondered how it would feel to have all our senses dulled out. How do you cope when walking is challenge, when you can't see well at a distance, when you can't feel hot/cold, when you have to make everyone repeat and when you can't smell a thing? How does that influence someone's daily life, and how would it have happened?

There are multiple ways to answer this. My character was undead-ish, and in addition to the effects named above, he also could not feel pain. He could still die,  if burnt, but otherwise, there were a bunch of things he no longer needed to do. I imagined him trying to live a normal life, to settle down among the other citizens, to get used to not feeling the wind on his skin (he was from a windy city). I thought it would all be rather cool. I still do! I just never found a home for him.

These ideas begged for another question, though. How would that influence descriptions? It becomes harder to place the setting when you have to limit what the character receives as sensory information. I think it becomes a lot more interesting too. Of course, you have to be consistent, but with limited senses, you bring a very different perspective. The same is true for blind or deaf characters too. I'm not sure it would work well for an entire novel, but for a few scenes or short stories, I love it.

This character still needs a home. I will find one for him. Not now, though... I really need to focus on my two WIP, and not jump to a third so soon!

What about you? Do you have any characters with malfunctionning senses? How does it play in your story?


  1. I love this idea! I already can't smell well from working in labs for years but it doesn't affect me too much (my hubby yells when the cat box needs changing because I can't tell on my own, and I suppose my sense of taste has been deadened a little because of it, but I grew up eating really bland food so I can't tell the difference :P). I do wonder what it would be like to not have any senses available to you? Very interesting idea.

    Found you through the NaNo Blogchain! Scientist Fantasy Writers unite!

  2. Yay, Scientists unite! You make me glad I do not work in a lab, or aim to (I'd rather teach). Although, my sense of smell isn't so good either (incidently, I get my mom yelling when the cat litter needs changing. True story).