for writers and readers….

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?

SynaesthesiaAbout 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
Emily Dickinson

(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

2 comments on “Monday Creative Writing Exercise because it’s a good way to start the week: Synaesthesia

  1. Nicola Morgan
    July 22, 2013

    I wrote a whole novel in the language of synaesthesia 🙂 Mondays are Red. It was great fun, liberating.

    • bridget whelan
      July 23, 2013

      Does that mean you’re one of the gifted 3% or are you fascinated by it like me? (Think Wednesdays have a brown tinge). What’s the name of your novel – love to read it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


This entry was posted on July 22, 2013 by in Muse and tagged , , , , , , .
%d bloggers like this: