by Donna MacMeans
As I’m writing this, there’s a butter slathered turkey roasting to a delectable crispness in my oven. Can you smell it? I think the whole nation must. House after house, filled from the rafters to the basement with that mouth-watering scent, open their doors to welcome friends and relatives, and, in turn, release some of the roast turkey scent out to the world.
When the house fills with that familiar smell, I can almost hear a football game playing on the television (of course, it doesn’t hurt that there IS a football game currently playing on the TV – but I’m going for association here). I can almost envision pumpkin pie and all the must-have casseroles that accompany the bird. I once read that more than all the other senses, a smell can trigger deep subconscious memories both good and bad. Turkey roasting is a good one, connected with fond memories for me.
As a writer, we can use this. We can set a scene with a familiar scent and thus draw the reader into the story. My characters all tend to be coffee drinkers - just so I can evoke that wonderful scent of coffee first thing in the morning for my story.
We can associate a character with a unique scent. I decided I wanted Emma in The Education of Mrs. Brimley to smell like winter apples as that spoke of a wholesome quality to me. I gave the hero, Nicholas, basic manly scents, but with a slight trace of turpentine to identify him as an artist.
To help keep myself in the story, I burned a Macintosh apple candle that surrounded me in Emma’s scent. Soon, I began to associate the scent with writing and formed a desire to write whenever I smelled apples. Not a bad association to form for a procrastinator like me!
What scents, good and bad, evoke strong memories for you? Is there a memorable character that you associate with a scent? For the writers, do you, like me, tie an overall scent to a book, and then hunt for a candle to “cast a spell”? (Hey, I’ll do anything if it keeps me at the keyboard.) One commenter will win a copy of The Education of Mrs. Brimley.