December 19, 2013

Writing Tips: Tickle Your Nose @VickiBatman #RLFblog #authortips

Great Fruitcake Bake Off 
Welcome Vicki Batman back to Romance Lives Forever for a few writing tips.

In church this past winter-almost-spring, I sat behind a couple with granddaughters. The woman removed her fur scarf and set it around a blonde cutie's neck. The little one gathered the ends and rubbed them across her face and pressed them to her nose.
I wanted to do that. I wanted to buy a fur collar and do what she'd done in the worst way. Just by watching her, I could feel the softness brushing my mouth and the scent of Chanel No. 5.
I like to buy vintage handbags, and recently when I opened up one, a whiff of perfume teased my nose. Something old and special. Remember when ladies put scent on their hankies and stowed it in their bags? Remember peeking through Grandmother's bath cupboard and seeing the cobalt blue perfume bottle with a silver label inscribed Evening in Paris?
My cat is twenty years old and doesn't venture outside much. But when she does on a bright summer day, she will park herself in a corner outside my window. I'm so afraid I'll forget and leave her there; so after a while, I retrieve her. I always kiss the top of her head, feeling the velvet of her fur against my mouth. And she smells fresh, as if she had absorbed sunshine.
Evening in Paris 
My malti-poos on the other hand have silky hair which grows into riotous ringlets. When freshly laundered, they are incredibly soft and the hint of apricot from the shampoo lingers. But after a couple of weeks, they cease being adorable and become plain ol' smelly dogs. Dirt-stained paws, gooky eyes, sour scent.
On Sunday, I took the dogs for a long walk. As we turned the last block toward home, I noticed the green pecans on the asphalt from the squirrels' munching. Even lines from gnawing were visible on the hull. The leaves from water-starved trees littered the pavement. Some shaped into long beige cocoons. Others in various stages of disintegration. The tink-tink of the doggies' badges clinking as they marched onward by my side.

When we write, are we taking the time to engage all our senses? Do we really feel? Do we really smell? Do we hear?

Green Pecans 
What does our hero's hair feel like? Long is different from short. What does their skin feel like? Most men have hair on their arms, legs and chest, and that intriguing line which runs below their waistband. And don't forget the scruffy beard and the adorable twinkle in their eye which makes a gal want to twinkle right back and move right into the sexy dance... Whoa. Too much romance writing. LOL
We can enhance our power of sense by observation. Stop rushing through the day. Sit. Listen. Take a lengthy look. A deep inhale and a cleansing exhale. What does the raindrop plopping on the tin roof of a boathouse actually sound like? What kind of caw does a parrot make when he flies overhead? What does gravel crunch like when we walk down a path?
It's hard to put sights, sounds, tastes, and smells into words; yet when we get it right, we transport our readers further into our story and giving them an intimate experience.
Sometimes, we over rely on ourselves to create the sights and sounds.
When I posted a blog about watching rain one morning, several people described the sound of rain. Lesson learned--ask friends what they hear, see, taste, smell. Everyone's experience is a little different from our own, and maybe, just maybe, they might describe it better and the words to take my work to the next level will come to me.
How do you enhance your senses for your writing? What do you recall from reading a good book where the author brought out the senses?

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About the Author

Like some of her characters, award-winning author, Vicki Batman has worked a wide variety of jobs including lifeguard, ride attendant at an amusement park; a hardware store, department store, book store, antique store clerk; administrative assistant in an international real estate firm; and a general "do anything gal" at a financial services firm--the list is endless.
Writing for several years, she has completed three manuscripts, written essays, and sold many short stories to True Love, True Romance, True Confessions, Noble Romance Publishing, Long And Short Reviews, and Museitup Publishing. She is a member of RWA and several writing groups and chapters. In 2004, she joined DARA and has served in many capacities, including 2009 President. DARA awarded her the Robin Teer Memorial Service Award in 2010. Most days begin with her hands set to the keyboard and thinking "What if??"

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24 comments:

  1. The senses are so important to a good scene. They evoke memories and feelings. And when done well, it's very subtle. Happy Holidays!

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    1. So true, Janie. I can't smell a pine tree without thinking of Christmas, even though I haven't had a real tree in decades.

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  2. Hi, Janie. Yes, they do. For example: last night, I held a seven month old baby. He was a tad fussy; so I whispered above his ear. My nose grazed his soft fine hair. Instantly, I recollected doing the same thing to my sons and the scent of baby shampoo. Happy holidays to you, my friend.

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    1. Doesn't that wonderful baby shampoo smell evoke powerful memories? Johnson and Johnson changed the way we even think of babies with that one product. "Baby powder" fragrance is in so many products! Even dog shampoo. Amazing.

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    2. hehehe, Kayelle, I might have to request the baby shampoo for the dogs.

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  3. Really like this post. Great job, Vicki.
    Without the description of sight, sound, texture, color and smell, we do a huge disservice to our readers, we leave them outside the scene. By using all senses, the scene comes alive. It makes the readers an active participant in the story. And the emotion. In my writing, I try to remember to describe the physical manifestation of an emotion.

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    1. That's such a good way to put it "the physical manifestation." I have an alien character who can smell emotions, and trying to figure out how to equate the emotion-smell to something a human can relate with is a challenge. I've kept lists of emotions and their related smells. A smell thesaurus if you will.

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    2. Hi, Rayne! Our senses are in everything we see, hear, do and yes, smell. Right now, I open the back door and the Christmas tree whops me with its Fraser fir scent. What a wonderful thing to come home to!

      Hi, Kayelle! I'd love to read your smell thesaurus. A long time ago, I read for each physical action, there is a reaction--which could be related to our senses or our emotions.

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  4. The senses are so important to any scene. I also like how certain people will come depend upon certain senses. For instance, a mechanical woman will feel kinetically more than she will listen to the nuances of wind. Or a man might use his nose more than his eyes to get a sense of the woman in his arms. It's the way we all work; we use a few senses more than others. I like the authors who play tribute to this by keeping true to what a character might see and feel, rather than what the narrator might see and feel. If that made any sense.

    Might need more coffee for me!
    Great post!
    -Lani

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    1. Very good point, Lani. Staying true to the character. My guys say few words and if I asked isn't this nice and hand them a flower to smell, they would say yeah. Thank you for posting.

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    2. I am highly sensitive to fragrances and have to use fragrance-free detergents and bath soaps. When I left a jacket at a friend's house, she washed it before bringing it to me. I had to wash it again to get rid of the smell of her detergent and fabric softener. My husband couldn't smell anything, but I could. Having a character who's sensitive to fragrance could make for an interesting quirk.

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  5. Thanks for the reminder Vicki. Senses turn on the magic in a scene and make it so much more memorable. I truly love when a book pulls on my sensory memory of jasmine in a garden, or cinnamon buns hot out of the oven. It puts me "there" with the characters when I smell what they smell etc.

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    1. Hi, Gemma! You are so right. I think I'll have to write cinnamon buns fresh from the oven in a scene instead of fruitcake. lol. We are the sum of where we came from, the people we meet, and the things around us which include the senses.

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    2. Oh wow, yes. Have a character baking hot bread and you can almost smell it right there, can't you?

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  6. Hi Vicki,
    It is so important to engage all the senses when writing. I've taught that to my students over the years. When we write to engage the senses, we draw the reader into the story so they can experience it too! Great ideas!

    I love the scent of rose soap. It reminds me of my grandma!

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    1. Hi, Melissa! I love the memory evoked by the rose soap. I think of pine one and get Handsome. Hugs,

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    2. Ivory soap -- it has its own smell. I used to use it to bathe my kids. When I attended a teacher conference one time, the teacher shook my hand and said "You must be Jamin's mom." We hadn't been introduced, and I couldn't think how she knew. We weren't in his classroom -- I didn't have anything with me with his name on it. She told me I smelled like Ivory Soap, and that was how she figured it out. :) It wasn't an overpowering scent -- it was clean and fresh. But it identified my son and linked him to me.

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    3. Hi, Kayelle! Isn't it cool how soap evokes memory and comfort? And I love the story of how your child had the scent. My mom couldn't use Ivory on me--got spots. lol

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  7. I once had an English professor who said (and, I have to paraphrase because it was so long ago) when we write we should focus on our five senses -- show the reader what something looks like, hears like, taste like, feels like, and smell like. I always thought it was good advice. Thanks for the post.

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    1. Hi, Angela! and that is the only way the reader will know--if we tell them. They could guess; however, being writers we can transmit this in a gentle way to help them get the story.

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    2. I think smells and other senses make the world real to readers in ways that other words don't.

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  8. The smell of Coppertone transports me back to a time when life meant freedom, fun, love, and and endless partying. Senses are critical to writing.

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    1. Hi, Sophia! Oh how fun. I haven't thought about Coppertone in years. Where I live, we slather on the stuff so much, makes one hate it. We are told not to get out in the sun. But Coppertone was a special time. Can you feel the sand between your toes and how it would creep into your suit's bottom? How the sand dried into a crust on your leg? The salt from the ocean getting in your nose? Thank you for being with me today.

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    2. Oh wow. That's so true. Coppertone. I am right back on the beach at Lake Mead in Nevada, where I grew up. No waves or sand. Just rocks and mountains. Takes me right there.

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