For the letter J, I received 50 suggestions. Random.org selected number 10: juniper.
Close your eyes for a moment.
Wait, never mind. If you close your eyes, you can't read this. Eyes open. Read on.
Okay, so imagine (with your eyes open), that I've said "juniper" to you, and I show you this picture.
|Image courtesy of Wiki Commons|
And I ask you to describe juniper to me. Where do you start?
"Well, it's a tree, on which grow small, dark juniper berries..."
If you're anything like me, you start with the visual. As writers, we paint pictures in the mind. But sometimes, we forget that the mind's eye can do more than see.
How do juniper trees sound in the wind?
What do juniper trees smell like after an autumn rain? How do the berries smell just after being picked?
How does the bark of the tree feel under your hand? The needles? What feeling do you get when you squish a berry between your fingers?
What do juniper berries taste like? (I won't ask about the bark.)
The picture we're painting for our readers is not static, and it's not only visual. There's so much more to a setting and a character than just how it/he/she looks. Does your sixteen-year-old male MC have BO? Does that twenty-something secretary (that your MC is screwing behind his wife's back) wear strawberry LipSmackers? Does your MC's sixty-two year old boss wear so much perfume that your MC prefers to walk the eight flights of stairs to the ground floor than take the elevator with her? (I bring this up only because I know this woman.)
Not yet convinced? Well, I'd like to leave you with this small scene from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 1, episode 8: I Robot, You Jane (not my favorite episode title). Unfortunately—and unsurprisingly—I couldn't find this clip on YouTube, but if you start at about minute 42:00 and let it play for about 1 minute, you'll get what I'm saying.
Don't have time to watch? The bottom line: things are better when they're smelly :)
Want more ideas on how to work smells into your writing? Check out this great post by Charity.
How do you describe your settings? Your characters? Do you try to add more than the usual visual content?
Today I'm taking suggestions for the letter P? Have any? Leave them below! Thanks :)