Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tip for Tuesday

The nose knows!

Today's tip for Tuesday is about using the sense of smell in our writing. The sense of smell is one of the most powerful memory triggers we have.

Chocolate chip cookies baking.
Fresh bread.
Hamburgers grilling over hot coals.
The cosmetics/perfume department at Macy's.
Freshly ground coffee beans at Caribou Coffee.

Could you call those aromas to mind? How about some not so pleasant odors?

Apple pie filling that bubbled out of the pie and onto the burner in the stove.
Anything fishy.
Spoiled milk.
A stale mud puddle.

Again, could you bring those smells to mind?

How can we use these in our writing to draw the reader into our story?

Instead of saying the heroine stopped beside a bush, show how she crouched behind a lilac. Can't you smell the heady blooms, the almost overpowering perfume?

Do you have a restaurant scene? (Cliche alert, BTW) make it a restaurant with a distinctive smell. Mexican restaurants smell different from Italian restaurants which smell different from Malt Shoppes which smell different from greasy spoon diners.

Barns don't smell like department stores and city alleys don't smell like Newport drawing rooms. The key to using the sense of smell in our writing is to be specific. You'll draw your reader into the setting, which draws them into the scene.

So, what scene are you writing right now? Tell us the setting, and let us know what you're doing to bring in the sense of smell?

For me, I'm writing a scene in a boarding school for the blind. The hero smells furniture polish, chalk, a fuel oil stove that smokes a bit, starch from the laundry room and boiled potatoes from the kitchen.


  1. I like using sensory but I have a feeling I'm not specific enough. Thanks for the tips Erica!

  2. Great suggestion. I'll have to incorporate that today.

  3. Good point. I need to work on that.

  4. Hey, apple pie filling burnt in the oven. Have you been in my kitchen lately or something?