Here’s a picture of my hero.
Quite a looker, isn’t he? Well, this picture could actually represent most of us (plus or minus the penis, of course). It’s a sensory homunculus – a representation of our bodies that emphasizes our most sensitive parts.
The sensory homunculus distorts humans based on how many sense nerves each body part has sending messages to the brain.
One of my favorite descriptions of the homunculus is from Tommy Kelly on his blog Darkling Wood: “The Homunculus is what we’d look like to everyone else if we looked the way we felt.”
When British comedian Jimmy Carr saw a picture of one of these beauties on the quiz program QI, he said: “It’s a good rule for a first date – these are the areas you should be concentrating on.”
It’s a good rule for a novel, as well. We’re told to focus on the five senses, and the sense of sight is often the easiest to cover well. But the sense of touch is hugely important in helping us understand the world around us. To create well-rounded, realistic characters, we need to describe how things feel when they brush against our characters’ skin, particularly focusing on these sensitive body parts. It’s not just about the tingles they feel, but temperature, texture and pain as well.
When you’re in your heroine’s point of view, think about the things her skin is coming into contact with and what messages she’s receiving from them. And if she wants to get a message to her lover’s brain quickly, in the words of my friend David, “It’s all about the hands, the lips, the cock, the tongue.”
Interestingly, when I did a Google image search for sensory homunculus, all I saw were male representations. One of them had a MASSIVE penis and was probably meant to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek (link provided for your viewing pleasure). But it made me wonder why the focus was so much on men. Is it because there’s been less research into how sensitive a woman’s bits are? Or because we’d feel uncomfortable seeing a female statue with a huge clitoris? Or have these representations historically ignored parts of the body where the nerve endings were primarily for sex.
Well, ladies, whatever the reason, you can rectify the situation by creating your own sensory homunculus. You’d have to be way more clever than I am. I’d love to see it, if you do – and I don’t mean that in a pervy way.
And if that’s too much effort, you can buy the little guy above, which is handmade to order by artist/scientist Krishna Sadhu.
Do you have any tips for how to weave the sense of touch into a narrative?