Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Being Interesting 01 - Sensory Language

In telling a story, I think a primary goal is to get your audience to feel connected to the situation. I think a great way to do this is to specifically talk about what the audience would gather through their senses in the encounter; particularly the sense of smell, which is a very strong memory device.

A good example would be John 5.

A bland way to describe the Pool of Bethesda:
Bethesda was a pool of water located near the Sheep gate. It was surrounded by five columns. There was a large number of invalid and unhealthy people who always stayed around the pool. They believed a legend that when the pool waters stirred, presumably by an angel, the first one into the pool would be healed.
A more interesting way to describe the Pool of Bethesda:
As Jesus and his disciples walked the roads of Jerusalem, then ended up near the Sheep Gate, at a pool called Bethesda. If you were to go to Bethesda, you could smell it before you could see it. It was a place of sickness and sadness. Walking past each of the five columns around it, you would see people huddled in their shade, trying to avoid the scorching sun. There was the constant tension, pushing and shoving. Countless people who were blind, lame, and paralyzed laid there trembling with anticipation that maybe, just maybe, today would be their day to get in first. You see, they were clinging to a legend that when the waters stirred, the first one to get in would be healed. But with eyes that couldn't see and legs that couldn't carry them there, what hope did they have of being first? Even more, was their hope in this pool an empty wish to begin with?
In this particular passage, there is some great stuff you could do with the details about the man who had been an invalid for 38 years. Look at current events from 38 years ago, and walk a person through all that someone would have lived through in our own history in 38 years time.

But I think the story really comes to life when they can smell the stench, when the heat burns their skin, and when they experience the hopelessness of never being first.


  1. This is a great point.

    I heard Walling once say that he tries to appeal to as many of the five senses when he's describing something.

  2. That is bound to be part of why he's such a treasured and sought after speaker. He can keep you captivated!