Sunday, September 25, 2011

Can't You Smell I'm Writing?

Writers all have different little tricks they use to help them get into the mood of a story, or to connect with a character.  On my desk, I have plenty of little knick-knack items, most related to a story or character.  Things I can pick up, fiddle with, throw if I'm having a really off day, and generally remind me of what I'm working on. But those things don't really do much to help me when the words simply aren't flowing the way I want.

I'm one of those writers who loves to engage all of the senses in my writing.  I want to immerse you in a scene.  Sights, sounds, taste, tactile, and aroma.  And I have found that one way I can call my creative muse is by the use of scents.  I search out smells that evoke the mood I want to create.  The perfect candle, or just the right incense--sometimes even the right cologne can transport me directly into the ambience I need to make the words flow from my soul onto the page.  I don't know why it works that way for me, but it does.  Probably a Pavlovian response of some sort.  Smell the candle, write the words.

Yes, I write horror, and other dark fiction, so you might be wondering if I have a stash of blood-scented candles, and the answer is no, I don't.  But, in one story, I have a demon, masquerading as a woman--a rather beautiful woman.  For her, jasmine and orchids set the mood.  Exotic, and a little dangerous.  Sage, bergamot, musk, those all evoke an image of the unknown for me as well.  Especially the sage.  I even own a bottle of a deep, rich men's cologne.  One spritz is all it takes for me to channel the character I imagine wearing it. 

When I need inspiration, I'll go wander in a candle shop, or certainly the candle aisle in my store.  I have a literal treasure trove of candles, incense, essential oils--and each evokes a different emotional response.  Even more, once a scent engages my muse, my writing becomes more descriptive in the use of all of the senses.  I have a candle called Angel Whispers.  It's a clean scent, almost like a gentle spring rain, mingled with flowers in bloom.  It takes my writing in a much different direction than the deep musky sage and bergamot candle.  That one is mysterious--dangerous.  I used that one when working on "The Hunt," a story filled with magic and mayhem.  When I was working on the scenes with the Minister in "The Hunt," I found burning incense was helpful, even though incense is more of a Catholic thing, and my minister is Lutheran.  My Catholic brain didn't care one iota. It's all about the mood I, the writer, associate with the smell.  All I know is that for me, it works.  So, if you see me wandering the candle aisle deep in thought, it's all research, me attempting to appease the muse without destroying the budget in the process.  I always end up with so many scents that pique my imagination.

I'd love to know what works for you?  Music, sights, smells, touch, taste?... How do you USE your senses to add layers of meaning to your writing? 
Write on!!


G. M. Stevens said...

Good blog post Lisa. I'll have to try that some times.
I google images and try to find a face or scene that looks like what I'm writing about. I also try to talk or just think in the mind of the character.

Denise M. Baran-Unland said...

Great post, Lisa!
Definitely gives me a good reason to buy more candles.
BTW, just shared this with my writer's group for additional feedback.