They say, that smell is our most powerful sense, conjuring up memories, & entire atmospheres with a single pertinent sniff. I cannot smell a leather jacket without remembering the day my hubby proposed to me, wearing—that’s right all you bright people—his leather jacket. And I don’t just picture the memory, but all the sounds & sights & feelings from that day encompass me. That’s how powerful our sense of smell is, linking us to all our other senses.
So how does this tie in to the writing life? Well let’s say if it doesn’t, our writing may as well be part of the hog reports on the local farm channel. Flat. Flavourless. Footsore.
It’s easy to remember to include sight in our writing, describing people & places, sometimes to gluttonous excess, leaving us reeling & holding our gut. That’s important— after all readers want to see what we picture when we write. What about our other senses?
Taste—If a character eats Belgian chocolate, are they going to just chomp it up & there’s an end to it, or are they going to savour it to which point we also begin to drool, rereading the passage, to the detriment of the book in our lap, whose ink begins to run.
And hearing—Unless the protagonist is deaf, he must hear things. Why tell us he is hanging around outside a stadium that’s hosting a rock concert, when letting us hear through him, the bass booming through his eardrum & out the other side, drowning out his ipod, & making him yank out the earbuds.
That same fellow would feel the vibrations of the rock concert, through the soles of his boots, & by leaning against the building his head begins to throb. Thus we also feel what he does.
Should sense of smell be only a doormat for our other eloquence? If our protagonist brushes against a lilac bush in bloom, they’d have to be half dead not to smell the overpowering fragrance of thousands of tiny misty mauve buds.
And touch? If our protagonist reaches into a dark closet for a raincoat & touches instead something wet & furry, that moves, ooh, then what? I want to feel through her fingertips so I too can squirm.
Reading is for many, a house of horrors, or pleasures. The readers enter. They’ve been told there are very interesting goings on in there. You know, book jacket stuff, very hush-hush, full of suspense.
So there they are, totally in the dark, all senses on ALERT, feeling, sniffing, listening. Reaching about, squinting, anticipating something—anything. They’re in with flared, flapping nostrils, eyelids stretched wide enough to drop the eyeballs out, hands cupped behind ears, to catch those flighty waves of sound, fingers tingling & feet feeling for footing, & in some cases, tongues flicking in & out, licking the wall. (Well, maybe not.)
Sooo—as writers, let us not disappoint.
(View rest of article here: http://dragonflydithers.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/911/)