Sense of Touch—Touchy-Feely Characters in Touching Scenes

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image by Fotorech

I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.

—Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference

See more about Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days at the end of the post.

Writers know how important it is that their characters use their five senses in stories. Earlier, I wrote about scentstastes, and sounds. Today, we’ll look at the sense of touch.

Importance of the Sense of Touch in Scenes

A character’s sense of touch brings him into physical contact with his surroundings. He doesn’t only see or hear something from a distance. He’s physically connected to an object or living being. Possibly, leaving his fingerprints on surfaces. In a way, what the character touches becomes more real to him than the sights and sounds he sees and hears.

Four Ways the Sense of Touch Works

image by KatherineSlade

1. Texture: The character senses how the surface of something that he touches feels. Or he senses the feel of something that touches his skin.

Examples: soft, furry, grainy, abrasive, sharp, prickly, bumpy

Image by Hans

2. Flexibility: The character senses how something reacts to his touch. Touching can mean a tap, a pat, a grab, or a blow. The character can feel how something he touches moves at the intenseness of his touch. The sense of punching a person’s belly is different than punching a wall. 

Examples: squishy, doughy, supple, loose, elastic, solid, firm, hard

image by StockSnap

3. Temperature: The character senses how hot, warm, tepid, cool, cold, or freezing something feels.

Examples: boiling, blistering, balmy, lukewarm, chilly, frigid, icy

image by StockSnap

4. Humidity, moistness, dryness: The character’s touch or his skin feels the level of wetness or dryness.

Examples: clammy, damp, soggy, sweaty, viscous, dry, dusty, parched, withered

In all these cases, the character may react pleasantly or unpleasantly to what he touches or what touches him.  

Not Only Fingers Touch

image by KeithJJ

Character’s touch and receive touches. He can touch with his arm as he passes by someone in a crowded place. He can touch with his hip when he does a hip-bump with his dance partner. He can feel his girlfriend’s lips brush his cheek.

The Action of Touching

What is important about the sense of touch is not only how something feels to the skin that touches or the skin that is being touched. The action of touching is also revealing in a scene. The action of touching is more likely to evoke feelings, such as mourning, joy, love, and anger.


  • she playfully slapped his arm
  • she slapped his face and marched from the room
  • when she finally understood, she slapped the table

Touching or being touched, connects your character to his surroundings. Make sure your character feels the texture, flexibility, temperature, humidity, and/or wetness or dryness of objects and living beings in his surroundings.

Do you use the sense of touch in your stories as often as you do the other senses? Why? Or why not?

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Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools. —Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript and into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan. —Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling author of the Myrtle Clover Mysteries, the Southern Quilting Mysteries, and the Memphis Barbeque Mysteries

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American Christian Fiction Writers

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  1. Jane F Thompson

    I used to struggle with incorporating anything beyond sight in my writing. In my own healing journey, I have learned I have lived in my head, not my body,so didn’t even record all the other senses. As I prepare to jump back into my writing, I’m hopeful those aspects will come more naturally. And my writing can help me stay in my body! Win-win!
    Thanks, Zoe! I’ll pull your book off the shelf and read that again.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Hey, Jane. So glad you’re getting back into writing. And thinking about the sense of touch. Thanks for letting me know you use Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I hope it helps.

  2. Sally Jo Pitts

    A terrific and helpful post on how to incorporate the sense of touch. Thanks for sharing.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Hi, Sally, glad you found the sense of touch tips helpful.

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