Thursday, September 30, 2010

Well That Makes Scents.....

Ever notice how the aroma of somthing stimulates a memory? Or registers a feeling within your brain? Like  chocolate chip cookies baking (yum!) may remind you of the kitchen in the house you grew up in. Or freshly mowed grass may remind you of Saturday mornings as a child.

I used to wear "Sunflowers" perfume by Elizabeth Arden when I was in college. Every once in awhile I catch a whiff of it somewhere and it's like an immediate time warp back to that time in my life. I even still have a tiny bottle of it on a shelf somewhere in my bedroom with just a dash of the golden-yellow liquid left. I save it just for the memory effect.

As writers it's important we evoke all the five senses in our writing whenever we can. They are details that help create the setting and bring it to life in the reader's imagination. Sensory details should be present in all of our crafted scenes. We may be better at creating a visual or includng the sounds of a busy city. But don't forget the sense of smell! Give that busy city the odor of a full dumpster, or vendor's peanuts roasting.

We can't just use the pleasant aromas to create comfort and peace, but we need to use scents to scare or repulse our reader. Keep it sensible--meaning we shouldn't try to employ odors that no on can relate to--like a rotting alien corpse or dragon's fire. Sprinkle in scents the reader can recognize to help them imagine what a rotting alien corpse smells like... or how a dragon's fiery breath reeks. Keep it simple, but evocative. Perhaps a villain smells of cheap cologne ... or a funeral home smells of old flowers.

I find that after my first draft is finished, it's easier for me to go back in and add the sensory details afterwards, focusing on each scene to make sure all senses are stimulated. As writers we have to make the words "slip into the reader's bloodstream." On the flip side, you can overdo it just as you can underdo it. We have to find the perfect amount of sensory details to stir the reader's emotion without them even realizing it.

I read a suggestion once that said to highlight each scene with differet highlighters: yellow for sight, pink for smells, green for sounds. You should see your pages as a rainbow of color. If you notice more of one color than the others, go back and reevaluate how you can even it out so all senses are stimulated.

Happy Writing!

7 comments:

LTM said...

awesome idea! Love it! I think that bookshelf muse also has a sensory thesaurus. I seriously needed that... I try to use senses as I go through the first time, but I find I start repeating. Too distracting. But this color thing = excellent idea. :o) <3

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Great post! You're right - scents are so important, and we shouldn't forget to use them. :-)

Melissa said...

That highlighter idea is brilliant... you know what I'm incorporated into my future revision routine, don't you? Thanks for this. Great post.

Kathryn said...

I've heard about the highlighter thing - I might actually do that one day, sounds like it'd be quite effective! I LOVE writing about sensory experiences... even something so simple can really show us our basic origin as people. It's very powerful stuff!

JEFritz said...

Smell is the most powerful memory stimulators. It makes sense that it would be a powerful tool in writing. Thanks for the ideas.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Wow...great idea! I go back and think about each of the senses when I finish a piece, but I love the highlighter idea....

A Pen In Neverland: Angela Peña Dahle said...

I'll have to agree with adding the sensory details later when I can flesh them out a bit more. Smell: such a love hate relationship. LOL.