Welcome to Writing Prompt Pit Stop! This week we’re going to use our noses to sniff out images, places, and things: observations that we may have forgotten about or that we might overlook in our everyday lives.
We have already taken a look at sights and sounds and, no doubt, they are two important senses, but even though those two are powerful – the sense of smell is perhaps one of the strongest tools we have – it can save of us from danger such as gas leaks, fire, rancid meat, etc., and it can bring us pleasure as when we smell “comfort” foods or catch a whiff of a loved one’s cologne/perfume. And speaking of loved ones, it’s often attributed to our Pheromones…the odor of a loved one that attracts us to them, and even pheromones attract us to our friends. Pretty powerful stuff, huh?
What does smell have to do with your writing? Well, if you can capture smell in your words, you can capture an audience. Who can’t identify when you write about a first date going into the movie theatre and smelling the popcorn? The description of just that one smell is going to put your audience, right there, in that movie theatre with you or with your characters.
Another good food example: our smells that we associate with our childhood memories. Maybe it’s grandma’s homemade cherry pie cooling in the windowsill – we may not know your grandma, but most of us can sure identify with that smell…or it gets us to remember our own grandma’s kitchen…the ham and beans, the cinnamon pinwheels, the oyster stuffing at Thanksgiving… it not only takes us back there to grandma’s kitchen…those images in writing have the power to make an audience hungry!
It doesn’t always have to be food that our noses know…you could walk past a stranger on the street and catch the smell of that cologne your high school sweetheart used to wear…something that you hadn’t thought about in thirty years…but with that one whiff…you remember everything.
And, it doesn’t always have to be pleasant smells that show up in your writing – sometimes it’s putrid descriptions of a bad meal, mold or mildew, an overflowing kitty litter box, a co-worker who doesn’t use deodorant…those images may turn-up noses but by the same token that audience won’t soon forget those descriptions. They’ll identify whether they want to or not.
So with this week’s prompt I’m asking you to get nosy! Put your nose to good use. What whiffs bring back memories? What smell makes your stomach turn? What smell makes you smile? What smell makes you immediately hungry? What is your all time favorite smell? What do you never want to smell again? You could ask yourself these types of questions all day – and in doing so you will have a plethora of images for poems, or you will find a character that has a quirky affinity for sniffing onions; maybe you’ll remember some smell that makes a good chapter in your memoir…again, like sights and sounds, with smells the possibilities could go on forever. Get some smells in mind, and use your tenth prompt:
1) Take a deep whiff. Go outside smell the new-mown grass. Get into the kitchen, smell what’s cooking. Go to the mall, smell the perfumes/colognes. Go to the movie theatre…and try to resist that smell of popcorn. In your daybook make a list of all of the smells that you’re aware of on a day-to-day basis.
2) Sit down and make a list of all smells that remind you of your childhood, what did your elementary school smell like? Do you remember that smell of salmon on Fridays or the school pizzas? What smells remind you of your high school days? The gym locker room? The oil paints in art class? The smell of wood from shop class? Go through different parts of your life and keep a list of all of these smells in your daybook – you’ll have so much to write about you won’t know where to start first!
3) After getting a substantial compilation from all of the smells above, decide what genre you want to work with, and then pick one or two smells (don’t overwhelm yourself) and write for ten minutes or until you run out of steam.
4) As always, tweak your work, add/delete – keep your best stuff and then revise, revise, revise!
With the lists that you generate from this one smelly prompt, I believe if you wanted you could write an entire manuscript of poems based on smell alone, or you could write a series of short stories or flash fiction. These exercises will naturally lend themselves to a lot of ideas for memoir/creative nonfiction, and you can always use smell as a basis of a play.
I don’t like to say this over and over, but I will…because it’s true…the possibilities are endless! Who says there’s such a thing as writer’s block? Not me.
As with all writing, it should be fun! If you ever want to share any successes or attempts that you get from these prompts, don’t hesitate to let me know. You can contact me here.
Look for another prompt next Wednesday! Until then, keep writing!