I don’t want to forget my periodic writing table so I’m posting it again today. Mostly I’ve been talking about character, Ch. But today I wanted to think about “sensory” writing, writing that you can feel, hear, taste, smell. I believe this falls under the Se element, setting.
Character - Ch
Plot - Pl
Mood - M
Voice - V
Point-of-View - PV
Pacing - Pa
Concept - Co
I like writing that involves all of my senses, but I have a problem, one of those weird things that Stewart Sternberg talks about on occasion. This is a weird thing about me. I have no sense of smell. As far as I can remember I’ve never been able to smell. An interesting thing, however, is that smell is easy to fake. I’ve been known on a walk in the park to stop and smell the roses, and then comment to someone else how wonderfully fresh and sweet they are. I’m always agreed with. Now, when I say stop and smell them I mean, press my nose close, draw in air in a large sniff, and then pause for just a moment before commenting on the delightful odor. It’s all an act, but people have no idea that it is unless I tell them.
In my novel, Cold in the Light, I deliberately created a race of beings for whom smell was more important than it is for humans. The Whoun have names for smells that humans can’t even sense. And I’ve had several people comment on how well I handled the Whoun’s relationship with odors. If so, it’s only because I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it. When you have a sensory capability you take it for granted. You don’t “investigate” it. You don’t “study” it. But I think if we want to write senses convincingly we need to. We shouldn’t just experience what we see or hear. We should break it down, analyze it. Then it’ll be able to contribute the detail to our setting that brings them to life for our readers.
As for my own missing sense? It’s been the source of quite a bit of humor in my life. Someday I’ll tell you the story of how “I discovered that farts stink.”