The Smell of Rain
“Small waves lapped softly against the lake shore a few metres beyond their feet…In the distance, coming easily and quickly across the openness of the lake, were the coyotes’ howls. One call at first followed by an answer. Then, a whole orchestra of wails, ending with a round of short, insistent yips.” ~excerpt from FIREWALLS by Eileen Schuh
I sometimes forget to incorporate all the senses in my writing. Perhaps because in real life I’m so dependent on sight. Or, maybe it is because there are many words to describe things we see and so few to describe things we taste, touch, smell and hear.
It seems, however, that the more senses I incorporate in my writing, the easier it is to keep readers entrenched in my stories. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years about sensory input in writing:
- The sense of smell is closely connected to memory in the human brain and is therefore a powerful tool to use in writing
- While many describe it as a rich, earthy smell that invades the air after a good period of rainfall, did you know there is a single word for the smell of rain? http://www.theweathernetwork.com/poll/result/whats-the-word-for-the-smell-of-rain/48962/)
- Original phrasing, whether describing the common or the unique, is attractive to readers.
- While paragraph after paragraph of description can be boring, and action interrupted by flowery language, annoying, powerful writers overcome those negatives by using sensory descriptions for more than just setting. They will use them to advance the plot, portray time transitions, foreshadow, provide backstory and even to develop characters. If readers are afraid they will miss out on something important if they don’t read your every word, you’ll have them ensconced from first page to last.
Katrina looked past the parking lot to the brilliant autumn colours. This used to be her favourite time of the year, with the fire of the foliage under the mellow glow of a sun riding low on the horizon, the honking of geese flying white against the azure sky. Hunting with Grandpa. Today, the autumn scents, colours and sounds were trapped in her head, unable to find their way to her heart. –THE TRAZ by Eileen Schuh
- Above all else, use sensory descriptions to elicit emotions in your reader. In fact, use anything you can to elicit emotions. Emotion is what will drive your story forward and keep your readers hanging onto every word.
[Katrina] awoke to the screams of sirens leaving the detachment parking lot. As the cop cars wove off into the distance, a robin chirped. She searched for the bird in the weeping willow, but could not spot him. However, she noticed the stark difference between the yellow-gold of the leaves catching the sunshine and the deep green of the shaded boughs. Illusions. In reality, every healthy leaf on that tree was the same colour. ~FATALERROR by Eileen SchuhEileen Schuh, Author