Thursday, June 10, 2010

I Smell A Story


When I write about different locations, I must remind myself to include smells as well as sights. We often describe odours in bars, houses, flower shops and on people. The delicate smell of a special perfume or comfort food can trigger memories, but cities and towns also have a their own brand of olfactory uniqueness.

The lovely old city of Saint John, New Brunswick smells like hot road tar mixed with sea salt because of the proximity of the oil refineries along the Bay of Fundy. When I smell tar, I go back to the days when I was a kid, wandering with my cousins in search of mischief. I see in my mind's eye the multicoloured wooden houses with white trim. I remember steep hills leading down to the bay.

Northern Ontario smells like wood smoke and pine needles. It will always remind me of camping and warm rocks.

My husband says Toronto smelled like rising dough when he was a kid, due to the flour and sugar mills along the shores of Lake Ontario.

Then there were the little lumber towns in northern Quebec. We lived in Chandler on the Gaspé Peninsula when I was seven years old. It always seemed to smell like an enormous fart.

From a WIP: "The Chandler pulp and paper mill on the west side of town served up its usual sulphuric stink with extra sauce on the day JC Bernard decided to kidnap his best friend Alphonse."


Newmarket doesn't have many distinctive odours, except perhaps the smell of newly cut grass on a summer day, or lilacs. Each season brings its own memorable smells.

What does your town smell like? Do any smells take you back to a place you once lived?


- Sandra Cormier


Image: A view of Saint John from Martello Tower

4 comments:

TKToppin said...

The west coast of Barbados, where I live, depending on the wind shift can smell like molasses and salt (from the rum refineries on the coast and sugar processing plantations) or, depending on the season, burning sugarcane fires. In general, Barbados tends to have a muggy hotness of grass, asphalt and salty sea air.

linda_rettstatt said...

I live a more commercial area in NW Mississippi, so most days I smell barbecue cooking at one of the many restaurants in the area. Consequently, I drool a lot :) But freshly mowed grass always takes me back to childhood in Pennsylvania. That and the smell of lilacs.

Good to be reminded of the importance of using all the senses in our writing.

Linda

Big Mike said...

That's why I have to have lived in or visited the locations of all my novels. I'm currently working on a story that takes place in the Outer Banks of NC. Talk about smells and sights and sounds. Actually took my wife there last year and captured pictures for the story. No, didn't charge it as tax deductible.

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the year (2008 and 2009)

Big Mike said...

That's why I have to have lived in or visited the locations of all my novels. I'm currently working on a story that takes place in the Outer Banks of NC. Talk about smells and sights and sounds. Actually took my wife there last year and captured pictures for the story. No, didn't charge it as tax deductible.

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the year (2008 and 2009)