Good morning, it’s Thursday, and that means I’m going to post a throwback from my earlier posts. Essentially a re-post of an old archived post with new notes and observations.
Anything added(except grammar and spelling corrections) are marked in blue within the original Post’s text.
The second post I’m going to revisit is, Did You Smell That? . Originally posted on Aug 26, 2016, 8:04 AM. The reason I’m revisiting is that this was one of my favorite posts and it’s still relevant.
My one weakness when setting a scene is that I forget to write in the smell. Or if I do, it’s hasty and obvious. Like. ‘He smelled pie.’ or ‘She smelled wet dog.’
(This is still a weakness, I still have to stop and remind myself to add the smells into a scene. This is especially important in first perspective writing.)
That’s what revision’s for.
However, when I read a book, and the described smells appear too often, overdone or frankly unimaginable, I squint at the pages and no longer can I smell them in my mind.
(Describing is a fine line. It is helpful to read the paragraph aloud or have someone read it aloud to you or just to themselves. It will help identify superfluous descriptives.)
Sasha made her way through the busy open-air market to buy the ingredients needed for dinner and dessert. She wanted to impress. She stopped in her tracks on the busy sidewalk upon seeing the ripe peaches. She planned to make chocolate cake. She couldn’t resist the fresh peaches and bought the basket of them. The cobbler would be better than cake.
The aroma of fresh baked bread, pies, herbs, and meats of various types being cooked wafted up to greet her. Sasha loved the open-air market in the morning. She made her way through the bustling sidewalk purchasing the ingredients she needed for dinner and dessert. She stopped in her tracks on beside a busy stall as the sweet scent of sun-warmed ripe peaches hit her nose. She planned to make chocolate cake, that idea faded as she picked up the fuzzy red and orange fruit and held it to her nose. With her mouth-watering, she bought a basket. Her grandma’s cobbler would impress better than cake.
I do this all the time, write a scene and forget to make it appeal to the imaginary senses. It usually means I was hasty and to make it right it will add words.
(I’m getting better at this, but I still forget or neglect descriptions. It is easier to add too much in at first and edit it down to a reasonable amount than it is to search and add descriptions later. If my brain doesn’t have time, I’ll leave an editing mark in the spot. [xxx add descriptions] then later I can use the find feature to go back or I’ll notices that block and fix as I revise.)
Tanya walked across the lawn in her bare feet. The feeling of the long cool grass soothing her tired, battered soul. It had been a long day of nothing going right. She stepped to the sidewalk, reached into the mailbox and took out the stack of junk mail and bills. With a sigh, she turned and set her foot down in the still warm dog poo. “You have got to be fu-” She bit her tongue as a mother and toddler in a stroller went by.
Tanya walked barefoot across the lawn. The long cool grass soothed her tired, battered soul. It had been a long day of nothing going right. She stepped across the sun-warm sidewalk, reached into the mailbox and removed the junk mail and bills. With a sigh, she turned to go back and set her foot down in a pile of still warm dog poo hidden in the grass. The pungent odor hit her nostrils as it squished up between her toes.
“You have got to be fu-” She bit her tongue as a mother and toddler in a stroller went by.
It’s not much, but it’s enough to engage my memory of the smell. Everyone knows what things smell like so there is no point dragging out the description of the scent, a vague or short direct reference is enough.
(The only time vague is good, is if it is a common smell like dog poo or orange juice. If it’s something less common, a good description or comparison is best. Such as when describing a perfume, room or food. Not all foods are common and the more complex the food, the better the description should be. However, if the item is not critical to the chapter or plot don’t dwell too much. You want to set the entire scene not focus on the one thing.)
My advice about sniffing out smells.
People don’t smell things constantly every moment of every day and remark on them mentally or verbally. The unpleasant smell of rotting fish will cause a nose to wrinkle, fresh cut onions may bring tears to the eye. Make the character experiences it and therefore the reader. Smell is a great way to set the scene, evoke an emotion or liven up a dull paragraph/scene.
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