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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

WIP Wednesday - What's That Smell?

Sometimes I will read a book and feel as if I am transported to that exact day and time. Other times, I have difficulty placing myself in the scene. I like to analyze both good and bad writing to see what works and what doesn't - and how an average read could become outstanding.

One way to flesh out a scene and make the person feel as if they are really there is through the use of smell.

Mentioning a scent within a scene can be defining a person. Each person has a unique scent that combines his or her cologne with shampoo, soap, or even cosmetics. Vicki Boyd's scent in my Black Swamp Mysteries series may be a combination of gentle aromas such as awapuhi shampoo, lavender moisturizer, and light summer blossoms in her perfume, while her sister Brenda, who is much more adventurous and walks on the wild side, might have hair that smells like wild ginger, a cologne with citrus and musk undertones and a moisturizer with a crisp, lemon-lime scent.

There are also scents in every room that can help to define that scene: awakening to the strong aroma of freshly brewed coffee, walking into the kitchen to the welcoming scent of baked cookies, fresh bananas, or pumpkin pie...

Scent can be a turn-off, such as the smell of onion or garlic on someone's breath... The strong scent of cigarette or cigar smoke... The feeling that someone owns multiple cats, even if you can't see them or the litter box... The smell of dried sweat, of fear, musty odors in a closed house, attic or basement... The smell of mold or mildew versus bleach or cleaning solutions...

Weaving scent into a scene has to be done in snippets that don't stop the action but help to propel it forward. It should make you feel as if you're there, and it should evoke feelings within you: warm, cool, endearing, sweet, sour, distrusting, repelling, revulsion...

A wonderful day to discover scents and the feelings they evoke is to visit a candle shop. They have scents that smell like sand, surf, mountain air, ocean salt, fresh springs... honeydew, bananas, strawberries, watermelon, apple, orange... vanilla, peppers, cinnamon, rosemary, eucalyptus... roses, spring blossoms, tea tree, gardenias... musk, night air, fresh linen, caramel, mint...

Think of a book that made you feel as if you were there. Did they use scent in any way to round out your experience of that scene?

2 comments:

onespoiledcat said...

Oh I think using descriptions of ANY kind bring scenes to life and that certainly includes smells...like a manly cologne or even a passing skunk - it all adds to the REALNESS of scenes....

Pam

p.m.terrell said...

Thanks for dropping in and leaving a comment, Pam! I agree with you - and definitely the passing skunk would conjure up the image of a scene real fast!