Hearing, Sight, Smell, Taste, Touch
Welcome back to my mini-series on the five senses. This time we’re working with Smell. I hope today’s post doesn’t turn out to be a stinker. (Okay… sorry. You know I can’t resist a play on words.)
I meant for this installment to be extremely lighthearted, and a scene from Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers quickly came to mind. Descriptive as it may be, it doesn’t really exemplify the point I wanted to make, but for fun, here’s the tidbit from Episode 20 anyway. In this snippet, Felicity, the woman in trousers, is tipsy from the physical reaction Absinthe (the Green Fairy) had when he was abruptly frightened.
It was no accident, I thought to myself, that the Green Fairy looked like a tiny green skunk, albeit one with gossamer wings. Much like a frightened skunk could spray a noxious odor from special anal glands, Absinthe produced a vapor that was the equivalent of highly concentrated absinthe liquor; an already potent potable in its pure form. That such a petite personage could produce so powerful a poot was positively— Oh my, what a lot of P words, I thought. Perhaps I’m not fully sober. I’m glad I kept that ramble to myself.
“Felicity,” Cornelis said raising one bushy blonde eyebrow. “You did say that out loud darling,” he added and I cleared my throat, looking around suspiciously.
As I mentioned, that tidbit just didn’t illustrate the kind of reader-reaction I had in mind. Then, in looking through my work for another comical scene to share, I came across a snippet of suspense that fit the bill for “Smell” perfectly. It doesn’t mention a variety of odors, or go into great detail describing them — but that is my point.
Smell is a powerful sense. The memory of an odor or aroma, whether good or bad, can stay with us for a lifetime. Sometimes the mere mention of a smell is evocative enough to set the entire stage, with very little added description. I hope I did that with this snippet.
This example for smell comes from the second interactive serial I published here, Murder at the Bijou: Three Ingredients, Cookbook-1. This tidbit is from Episode-13 of the serial. Once again the young flapper, Pip, is the narrator of this Roaring Twenties tale. She rushed to the aid of her “crush” and came upon a terrible scene.
I don’t remember getting out of the Model-T. I don’t remember Granny Fanny shouting the words “No, Pip. Don’t look!” I don’t remember the young policeman taking my arm to hold me back. And I don’t remember pulling free of his grasp to approach the tall bloody form stretched out on the ground with a hat covering his face. All I remember is smelling the coppery odor of blood, and seeing the fedora that belonged to Detective Dabney Daniels covering the face.
The hat was still rumpled from where Dabney crushed it in his hands when he told Granny and me about Marshal Moses Myrick being ambushed. The young copper caught my arm again, more firmly that time. Granny had my other arm. “I have to…” was all I could manage to say.
A Ford that vaguely resembled the one belonging to the marshal sat with steam coming from the radiator. Its front tires were flat, the windshield shattered. The metal was so riddled with bullet holes that it hardly looked like the same car.
Several pigeons sat on the roof of a small building, looking on curiously. I noticed the birds in a dazed sort of way. They fluttered off as two more police cars roared up to the place, sirens blaring. But I barely saw or heard the commotion.
“Miss, please. You don’t want to look. It wouldn’t help you!” the young officer said, seeming almost frantic to find the right words. I guessed that this kind of scene was as new to him as it was to me. As I tried to pull away from his grasp the young man spoke in a horrified strangle of a voice, “His face is a mess!”
Granny took in a sharp breath. She froze next to me. She tilted her head the way she did when she was unraveling a puzzle of one kind or another. Then her shoulders relaxed minutely. She was saying something but I wasn’t listening. Finally a sharp “Paisley Idelle!” pierced the fog of my overwhelmed mind.
“It’s not Dabney!” she said in a tone that suggested she had already said the same thing three times. Three was sort of a magic number with Granny. She’d repeat herself, but if she had to say something a third time… well, she didn’t appreciate it.
I hope my mention of the “coppery odor of blood” woke up your nose and caused you to smell other things in the scene. Perhaps engine oil leaking; a hot odor from the newly bullet riddled car, steam from the radiator… It did that for me when I wrote that passage, so I hope I successfully conveyed it to you. If I fell short, well… both of these snippets were from spontaneous, unedited “pantser” stories.
Look at the image below. What do you smell? This image is from an unidentified spot in New York City. The characters in your (pretend) story are going to spend some time on this street. Use the sense of smell to bring the story to life. The street is nearly deserted, perhaps that indicates a time of day. There are a few trees. Many of the windows are barred. There are fire escapes, window-unit air conditioners, a manhole cover. There is sunlight down at the street corner, but it either has left, or has yet to reach our street. Put yourself into this image. Nose around with your imagination. Now tell me what you smell.
What did you smell?
Open Invitation: If this inspired you to just write something or otherwise create anything according to the sense featured today, that’s even better! If you want, you can use the comments to leave a link to your story or blog post. Kindly link back to this post if you blog about what you wrote, cooked, painted, or photographed.
Thanks for visiting.
Copyright © 2016 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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