As most stories are told in terms of what we see, these five articles have covered the other senses, so our final part is a look at the sixth sense which is still a bit of a mystery to us.
Much has been written, and even more passed down the generations by word of mouth, about people who possess this sixth sense.
It has been described in various ways: an intuitive faculty, an inexplicable perception, an uncommon awareness, a natural ability to ‘just know’ something.
Some studies give it the name ‘proprioception’ and it’s now being researched in terms of psychology and neuroscience. All this research is at an early stage and I’m sure we have much to learn.
But, for our purpose, as writers, we are more likely to be looking at how this sixth sense affects our characters.
Does the young lad who got separated from his friends and is now forced to walk home alone through the dark woodland, quicken his step because he hears a twig snap behind him or does he just ‘sense’ that he is being followed?
Does the young saleswoman, summoned to the manager’s office, think her job may be on the line because her sales figures are down again this month or is it more an instinct, an intuition, a feeling in her bones?
There are many situations where this sixth sense can be used to intrigue the reader but we are also asking the reader to believe in something not tangible, so we must always remember not to ask too much and often, if not every time, reward the reader by justifying their trust in us.
As I write my first novel, Goodbye Bluebell, I take the reader to a quiet, deserted spot on the Suffolk coast to join the main character in a country graveyard. As she suddenly stops walking just short of the ruined church, the reader has to stay with her as she watches and waits for just a tense second. She hasn’t seen or heard anything but she knows what is coming although every nerve in her body is shrieking that it’s not possible.