Use Your Senses

No, not common sense, although you should be using that one too. In which I talk about the two hardest senses to convey in books–taste and smell.

They say (whoever they are) smell is the strongest trigger for memories. I could look this up, but I don’t want to right now. I’d say they’re right. The smell of diesel fuel in the rain—sounds gross, I know—takes me back to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland and when I traveled there as a kid with my family. Corn meal takes me back even further. When I was a toddler, my parents owned and ran a chicken farm in Los Angeles. Corn meal was used to feed the chicks. The smell makes me feel safe, warm, and loved. (Yes, I had a good childhood. No traumas to draw on for my writing.)

Black plums (And can you tell I’m not a food photographer?)

Taste is another powerful trigger. Just this week I bit into a black plum and was transported to my childhood backyard. We had five fruit trees—apricot, peach, tangelo, quince apple, and, yes, black plum. We would have so many plums we’d walk around the neighborhood and sell them by the bag. Forget lemonade stands. The plum tree was “mine,” and my sister had the apricot tree. My mother would make so many jars of plum and apricot preserves. That bite produced such a vivid memory I almost forgot to breathe.

And that’s why you want to include all the senses in your reading (and writing), not just touch, sight, and sound. It’s the visceral feeling readers crave.

So, do you have any memories associated with smell or taste?


Books I’m reading now:

One True Heart by Jodi Thomas

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Five Reasons Why an Author Should Marry an Engineer

…In which I write a love letter, sort of, to Robot Guy.

Engineers are not necessarily known for romance (not generalizing here, just speaking from my perspective). They don’t get you flowers because die and there’s no real point to them. They don’t get you jewelry because they don’t see the value in a hunk of metal and some carbon. They might not even accept what I call the magic in writing–you know, that thing when you’ve already put the clues into your story for the big idea that hits you in the final third of the book? Or that other cool thing you did that you didn’t even know you did, but when you reread you amaze yourself?

But guys or gals like that are worth hanging on to for other, and I believe, more valuable reasons.

1. A good one believes in your dream and takes practical steps to support you. Case in point: Robot Guy read my early stuff and bought into my crazy dream from the start. And to prove it, he got me a cleaning service. He said, “I want you to be writing, not cleaning.” I understand such a step isn’t feasible for a lot of writers, but an engineer will figure something out: build a work station, set up your computer. Speaking of which…

2. When your computer goes wonky, most likely he can fix it. Engineers do all their work on computers these days and know a lot about them. What they don’t know, they Google and learn. Bonus reason: I have to worry more about a cool new computer program/game than another woman.

3. Engineers make a good living. Not that you don’t want to contribute to the household, or that you won’t, but personally the idea of being a starving artist does not appeal to me. I did the whole starving grad student thing. Don’t want to revisit it. It’s nice to know that the world won’t collapse with the next rejection.I know I am speaking from a position of luxury, but this blog is about me, and I warned you at the top that this is a love letter to Robot Guy.

4. They won’t buy you flowers, but they will buy you a modem. Funny story. Back in the waaaay early days of the Internet, Robot Guy bought me a modem for our anniversary. I had no idea what it was for. I am ashamed to say I took it back and got something else. I can’t remember what that something else was, but guess what I wanted a year later? So if you marry someone into technology, you will be ahead of the game.

5. They are the yin to your yang. It’s nice to have someone who balances you and grounds you. I can’t tell you the number of times Robot Guy has talked me off the ledge. Okay, fine, I have my logical side too, my sciency, mathy side, but I am off the charts airy-fairy when compared to Robot Guy. It works nicely for me.

These five points are my truth. Don’t write me and tell me your engineer cheats on you or made you write essays to justify spending money (yes, I know one who did just that. Not mine, however).  What I’m really saying with this blog is that you need to find someone who will support you and your dreams, and cherish those dreams as if they were his or her own.

And it’s good to have a Robot Guy.


Books I’m reading now:

Armada by Ernest Cline

To Marry a Prince by Sophie Page

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson