Make your writing stink!

There’s a passage in my current WIP where my protagonist is standing at the base of a skyscraper, dreading the impending meeting she has been summoned to attend. The wind is whipping her hair and her skirt. After one of those rapid elevator ascents she arrives in an intimidating black marble and shiny surfaces reception area.

When my lovely BMan read this passage he said that I should highlight the change in air pressure, he works in a multi story building, is travelling the elevators all day and he said there is often air pressure changes. Added to the fact that the wind whipping had been such an element on the street, I think he had a decent point. It made me think about remembering to have the characters use all their senses, not just their eyes.

Smell in particular is a powerful memory trigger and helps a scene ring true. Recently Palmolive took the soap we have used for the last 4 years off the market (side note the whole 4 years we bought this product, right up until it was discontinued, the bottle was labelled ‘New’ – keep relevancy in mind people!). I have been trying to find an alternative and it amazes me how strong the smell of soaps are today! Anyhoo, the idea of senses being so critical was brought home to me when I realised the BMan smelled ‘wrong’ the other day, because of the different soap. It’s very odd to have the person you have been married to for 8 years suddenly smell different, weird.

I can vividly remember Little Man as a bubba had a child care worker who loved him to pieces, I would pick him up at the end of the day and he would smell like another woman’s perfume, my 10 month old was cheating on me and I could smell it! On the upside it did mean he was getting loads of cuddles 🙂

As human beings what we notice most is when something changes. A change in air pressure, smell, temperature, that is what we notice and that is what we need to bring to some of our scenes to make them authentic.

In my WIP’s first paragraph I have a really strong sense of sound – hopefully this triggering of the senses provokes a response in readers, a recognition.

What do you think?


8 responses to “Make your writing stink!

  1. What an interesting piece, and I think you are absolutely right. Incidentally, I believe they say that smell is the most powerful memory-trigger, the most evocative sense of things past and also of belonging (hence you and the bubba conundrum!). The power of ebooks is such that you could probably incorproate sound… imagine, scrolling through, the hero listens to a song and BANG the song starts playing. Alright, alright, all manner of copyright issues, but am just saying. Smell, now, that’s a different one. Interesting thought though, thanks for sharing!!! And am thorougly intrigued by the whole scyscraper/windwhipping scenario!


    • I do like the theory of the ebook interaction, if it was done seamlessly, if I had to click a link it would be too distracting I feel, but what an extra added dimesion to consider. too overwhelming for me just at the moment though. I do like how Stephenie Meyer included a list of the songs that she listened to while writing her twilight novels. It’s self indulgent to include it, but seriously if you can’t be a little self indulgent at that level of success, when can you, but I found it refreshing and really appreciated it as a tiny insight into how someone writes, love or loathe her writing.


    • Also, I love your comment on scent as a trigger of belonging, I really like that, I need to think more deeply about that, really, thanks for the comment


  2. I think scents impact us deeply, so it makes sense in writing too. I’ve read interesting things over the years about scents impacting our memories and at times even decisions we make.


  3. I should probably do more of this than I do. I mostly concentrate on sight and sound — probably because I’m so influenced by movies. Thanks for the tip!


    • It’s an easy one to forget but really evocative when done well – have you read Perfume but Patrick Suskind? The whole novel is about the sense of smell, this was made into a movie, I haven’t seen it though so don’t know how well that translated into film, interesting though.


  4. I like that you brought up describing smell in your book. I’m revising my manuscript now and am always looking for ways to make the scene more vivid. I tell a lot about what things sound or look like, but I think I neglect smell. I’ll keep that in mind!


    • Good luck with the revisions, I’ve enjoyed reading back through your posts on your blog and shared your excitement when you finished your manuscript, reminded me of when I finished my first 50k word story, what a thrill. Hope you can find ways to make some of your scenes ‘stink’ 🙂


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