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On Creating GOTAV Balance


By Christine Carron 

One of the core Goodjelly moves is creating Possibility. You can create Possibility in the context of your entire writing adventure or in your writing itself. In this post, we are zooming in on the writing, to the details of description itself and the possibilities that come for us, and for our readers, when we use all of our senses in our stories. To do that well, it helps to tend to the GOTAV balance.

Note: No need to google GOTAV, I just made it up. (Though I just googled it to make sure I had actually made it up.)

What is GOTAV?

  • Gustatory
  • Olfactory
  • Tactile
  • Aural
  • Visual

 What is GOTAV Balance?

GOTAV Balance is how much the various senses are used in a story’s descriptions, metaphors, potent moments, etc. Balance does not mean to imply equal. A well-balanced cake does not have equal parts butter, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and milk. But it does imply that a story may be tastier if each of the senses are treated as core and necessary ingredients.

My suspicion is that, if you are anything like me, you likely have the visual element covered easy-peasy. We writers are always wanting our readers to see our story worlds. But how cool is it for our readers to also hear the story world, and touch, smell, and even taste it, too? Depending on your own sensibilities and sensitivities, the other senses might come less easily.  Which is completely normal and expected. 

The trick is to more consciously attend to the other senses to get those flowing in our stories. The  following exercise is designed to do just that. Use this exercise as a warm-up prompt to your next writing session, or bring it to your next writing group and do it with friends so that you all can delight in your collective creativity. 

Let’s go. Let’s goodjelly.

The Goodjelly Prompt of the Week

Required Materials: Your time, a computer/pen and paper, plus your memories and/or imagination.

Directions: Take one of the following emotions, objects, or experiences, then write five different one-sentence descriptions of it, i.e., one sentence for each sense: gustatory, olfactory, tactile, aural, and visual.

Time Limit: 10 minutes (Use a timer. The time limit is a hack to get your brain out of perfection mode and into creative mode. No time to think; just write.)

  • Emotions: Love, Hate, Boredom
  • Objects: Pear, Stapler, Candelabra
  • Experiences: Telling ghost stories around a campfire; Delivering a speech, Walking in the rain (e.g., GOTAV the image at the top of this post.)

Sweet! Now, go unleash some GOTAV awesomeness on your story.

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