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.)

plums
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?

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

One True Heart by Jodi Thomas

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

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