Writers - Use Your Nose!

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The human brain is a truly staggering piece of anatomy/machinery. There are so many things it does that we don't pay attention to, things that become second nature. Smell is one of those things; it's a sense that we use without thinking. We come across different smells every day, some pleasant, some not and unconsciously our brains register these smells and attach information to them.

As a writer I'm learning that smell is essential. Recently I happened to get some new perfume, one that I used to wear when I was a teenager. As soon as I sprayed it memories flooded back and I was transported 17 years into the past. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach, I closed my eyes and breathed in the scent. Emotions cursed through me and as I thought about my novel I was inspired to write about a particular character. It was this that made me realise how important smell is for writers.


To give you another example when I give my boys Ricicles for breakfast in a morning I think of my Nan. When I was a little girl we stayed with her at Christmas time and would have Ricicles for breakfast every day. She had this huge dog called Gambit who would stay by my side the whole time I was there. I used to play with him out in the garden while I picked apples from the huge apple tree. There would be a big Christmas tree in the corner of the lounge that had been decorated by me and my sisters. And the best bit - my Nan's smile that made her eyes sparkle; even behind her thick bifocal glasses. All this from the smell of Ricicles.

Whenever I'm reading a book and come across a great passage of writing that invokes real emotions I  wonder how the writer did it. I couldn't figure out how they had managed to get such feeling into their words but now I realise that that age-old advice "Write what you know" is kind of true. If you use your own experiences as inspiration it will make your writing better. From the whiff of a particular perfume I can make my villain more evil and the smell of freshly cut grass inspires me to write about a happy family.

My advice to all writers is "Use your nose". That magic connection between smells and memories is indispensable and should be utilised at every opportunity.

Do you have a favourite scent that triggers nice memories?
Have you been surprised by an influx of memories from a smell?

2 comments:

  1. Roasted coffee grounds.

    In the town I grew up in, there were two 'smelly' shops in the high street. The first was a stinky cheese shop, that I'd practise holding my breath as I walked past. The other was a shop/cafe that sold roasted coffee beans. The shop was called Continental, and also had a coffee shop attached (pre-star-bucks days). Whenever I smell roasted coffee beans now, it takes me back to that point in my life where I'd be walking up and down the high street, wondering what gift I could buy a sibling for less than a fiver, whilst smelling that beautiful smell.

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    1. Oh that sounds lovely - the coffee not the cheese! Whenever I smell coffee I think of writing because I'm usually drinking a cup while in front of the computer! Thank you for commenting, that's a great memory. xx

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