Sunday, November 28, 2010

Continuation of a Smelly Theme

Since Diana asked someone to post for her, I thought I'd pop in.

Sandra's Post on writing descriptive smells is something many writers need to read. Have you seen the commercial where the less than glamorous girl rubs cashews behind her ears and attracts all sorts of hunky men to her side? The aroma of baking pumpkin pie is supposedly the strongest olfactory aphrodisiac for the human male (sorry, Ms. Chanel) so why not use it in a love scene?  Totally immersing readers in the story involves all the senses, and unusual use of one or more will certainly make your writing memorable.

And  different areas most certainly have a distinctive attar. Here in the Arizona desert, creosote and sage imbue the area after a rain, washing away the dusty smell of hot dirt. But even when it's hot and dry, there's a unique odor to it, like herbs drying in an old woman's pantry. In the smaller towns of Bisbee and Tombstone a lingering metallic tang spikes the nostrils, oiled guns and copper occasionally tinted with someone's freshly baked peach cobbler. Tucson's southside smells of abuelitas: cinnamon and chile always in the air. Phoenix to me smells like tar, asphalt, and dead fish from the canal system. I know there are lovely smells in Arizona's capitol - orange blossoms and freshly-mown grass, perhaps - but my experiences there seem to have all been in the center of the city during the summer.

I've lived in South Carolina where the wild honeysuckle laid in the air heavy as syrup and weighed you down - no wonder those folks never moved very fast! Northern Ontario's perfume to me is  fish and frying bacon mixed with wood smoke, pine, and wet dog. My father would drag our entire family with him to a fishing camp every summer and the owner's English Sheepdog will forever be associated with the glacier lakes in my mind. The Gower Peninnsula in Wales smells of sea salt and daffodils - and of course, wet sheep - mixed with chlorophyll and mud; rural and wild and rustic.

So close your eyes and take a deep sniff as you're writing. Take your readers with you on a smelly adventure!



Allison Knight said...

Wonderful post. And you are so right. I've found, after I write a scene, or even a chapter, I go back and look for places where smell, taste, sound would enhance the story. I'm always surprised at how many places the missing senses improve the writing.

Thanks for tackling this.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Very well done and so original. I've been the places you mentioned and you got them all right.


Jude Johnson said...

Thanks, Allison & Julie. One of my favorite scents is old books... Maybe that's why I enjoy historical research so much. ;-)


Sandra Cormier said...

Oh, I love the smell of a used book store.