Monday, December 3, 2007

I smell a rat

When I teach writing workshops with kids, I remind them to think about the five senses when showing setting, incorporating details, etc.

Sometimes we brainstorm things we see, taste, hear, etc.

When I get to smell, I'm always a little amused at how well I can fake it.

I have no sense of smell.

Never have.

Can't smell a thing.

But experience and observation have taught me enough about smells that I'm pretty good at faking it. (Although sometimes I have to ask my critique group if a smell is accurate or makes sense.)

I've learned about things you are supposed to smell.

Out of curiosity, I went back through some of my books to see examples of how I faked, er, I mean, incorporated smells.

From Moonpie and Ivy:

They sat like that for a while, Ivy stroking Pearl's hair, Pearl keeping her head on Ivy's bony shoulder, smelling her bacon-grease smell.
[Ivy works in a diner.]

Pearl pushed her face so deep into the pillow she could barely breathe. Then she sniffed as hard as she could. Nothing. Not even the tiniest trace of Shalimar. Pearl had sniffed that pillow every night, and every night the scent had faded a little more.


From Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia:

Then she came out and sat beside me on the porch again. She smelled like medicine. [She had been caring for her elderly father.]

You think Harlem's gonna like this pie? I said, breathing in a whiff of sweet cinnamon smell.

She pushed the afghan aside and came over to me. I smelled her talcum powder and I knew I was about to feel better about myself.

From How to Steal a Dog:

...his breath smelled like tunafish.

That tunafish odor swirled around us inside our beach towel tent.


I put it
[a letter] up to my nose and sniffed. I could actually smell my teacher, Mr. White. Sort of like soap and toothpaste and coffee all mixed together.

5 comments:

Jennifer said...

Hi Barbara- Nice examples! I'm curious- does having no sense of smell affect a person's appetite?

Also, if you'd like to take part- I've tagged you for a meme:
http://art-words-life.blogspot.com/2007/12/ive-been-what.html

Barbara O'Connor said...

Jennifer: Yes, no smell = not a very acute sense of taste. I didn't really realize it until I started cooking. For instance, I can't taste spices or herbs. Never tasted garlic in my life.

The meme sounds fun! I'm up to my eyeballs in school visits but will definitely get to it when I have time to breathe. Thanks!

Sarah Miller said...

Whoa! When you get around to breathing and other leisurely activities, try reading SCENT OF DESIRE, by Rachel Herz. It sounds racy, but it's really all about the sense of smell.

I'm a bit of a nose-nerd myself -- blame it on Helen Keller -- so I can't hardly imagine a lack of smells.

Jennifer said...

Barbara- Great!
That's fascinating about the lack of taste. (Though you'd do well in my house, where we run in terror from my husband's garlic bread...)

Sarah- Wow-- I just ordered your book last week for my mother for Christmas-- she works with deaf/blind people. How neat to come across you here! Can't wait to read the book.

Sarah Miller said...

Holy wow! Keep in touch, Jennifer. :)