Monday Creative Writing Exercise because it’s a good way to start the week: Synaesthesia
What colour is the letter “A”?
What does the number “1” taste of?
About 3% of the population have synaesthesia and live in a world of extra sensations. For many every letter has its own distinct colour (most common) and for some sounds have a distinct taste (rarer).
A few have an even wider range of expereinces. A Russian scientist interviewed a woman who described a sound as ‘something like fireworks tinged with pink-red. The strip of colour feels rough and unpleasant and it has an ugly taste — rather like that of a briny pickle.’ That’s colour, touch, and taste in just one sound….
Famous creative people with synaesthesia include the painter David Hockney, the French composer Olivier Messiaen and the writer Vladimir Nabokov.
Even if we aren’t part of the 3% who enjoy a kind of magical mixing of senses we can use it sometimes in our writing: a bit like this:-
Annihilating all that’s made
To a green thought in a green shade.
From The Garden by Andrew Marvell
With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz,
Between the light and me;
And then the windows failed, and then
I could not see to see.
From I heard a fly buzz when I died by
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
From somewhere i have never travelled by e.e.cummings
It can work in prose too.
The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music and the opera of voices pitches a key higher.
From The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald
And for something really cheesey…
On you, wet is my favorite color.
Line spoken by Elvis in the film Blue Hawaii (which is itself an example)
Fold a piece of paper length ways to make three columns. In the first column write down 10 tastes or flavours (such a salty, bland etc) and number them. In the second column write down 10 colours and again number them. In the last column write down 10 sounds (bellow, screech etc).
Ok now see what you’ve got….pick three numbers at random and see if it works. Salty purple jazz? A milky blue laugh….?
Do you know anyone with this condition?
If you would like to find out more the UK Synaesthesia Association has lots of information on their website.
If you do this exercise it would be lovely to see what you come up with…do share the results here – the ones that work and the ones that don’t.
photo credit: Jiuck via photopin