A Happy Smell
A Nasty Smell
I read an article about memoir writing the other day. One small section has stayed with me, keeps popping into my mind off and on. It's a very small part of writing memoir that could be applied in fiction writing, personal essays and poetry, as well.
Smell! That's what has been on my mind. Writers know that the sensory details they include bring life to their writing and allows the reader to relate easily. Narrow it down to smell for today.
When you reach back into your memory bank, what smells from you childhood do you think of? Which ones, good and bad, stand out? Is it the perfume Great Aunt Nettie always wore? Or the smell of the barn that Grandpa carried with him through his work day? What about the aromas in your mom's kitchen on Thanksgiving Day? Did your grandmother use a certain floor cleaner that you can smell to this very day?
Here's a list of smells, odors, or aromas that I remember from years ago:
- the big jar of paste at school that the teacher used to fill smaller jars
- chlorine at the swimming pool
- baking in my mom's kitchen--cookies, pies, yeast breads, cakes and more
- gasoline at the station when Dad filled the gas tank in our car
- a red floor oil tht my Great Aunt Jane used on her wood floors
- the real Christmas tree we had every year
- meat roasting in the oven
- the fresh smell after a spring rain
- carnations--they had a sweet, spicy scent unlike the ones today that have no aroma
- sheets dried on a clothesline
- Vicks Vapo-rub that Mom rubbed on our chests when we had a cold
- the special aroma found the minute we walked into a Fannie Mae chocolate shop
- old books
- coffee that my parents drank daily
- a mingling of wonderful aromas in the back room of my grandma's bakery
- the after-smell of a cap gun being shot
- bubble gum
- bleach and bluing my mother used in the laundry
- disinfectant used in the restrooms at school
- ink used in a mimeograph machine
- baby brothers' diapers
- leaves burning in the fall
Make your own list. I'm sure you'll duplicate some of mine but also add others. Your list may trigger memories that can be used when you write a new memoir piece, a personal essay or even a fiction short story. Include the way the smell affected you and your reaction.
Exercise for Today: Take note of smells as you go about your daily routine. How many different ones have you encountered in one day? Keep a list, then write something about each one.