Description of the Senses

Often, as writers, we’re told to write what we know. It makes me wonder, though, about things we think we know or don’t know. Missing a sense does not preclude one from undertaking the written word – even braille can be translated for sighted people.

But do the blind writers show the same sights to the reader? Can a deaf writer make the reader hear things in the story? Are smell and/or taste also subjected to the same rules?

I’ve been thinking about my book, and I am pretty sure I never mention a single smell in it. Why? I smell almost nothing. My recent pregnancy showed me there was a world out there full of scents that are beyond my daily reach (which promptly disappeared after the baby arrived). Most people I know take this for granted – some even find it as an annoyance when faced with particularly strong aromas like perfume.

Recently I rode in a car with a couple sensitive-nosed women and another who wore perfume. I remained unaware through the entire ride there was perfume present. Only during (late) pregnancy did I smell things like dishsoap while washing dishes, the dirty dishrag that needed to be changed, and the laundry aisle in the grocery store.

I’ll remember all those new scents for a time, but what happens when the memory fades? Will I remember enough to write scents into the story? It’s such a struggle for me to remember things smell anyway. I know flowers do, not so much from personal experience but by social acclimation. People speak about the smells of certain things: flowers, perfume/cologne, manure, babies.

When I read, sometimes I think about lacking senses and the authors behind the work – but I admit it doesn’t come up much. Do you ever wonder about the author and the descriptions used? I struggle so much to include smell lately. I know it’s a weakness.

Remember the blog tour starts tomorrow! Don’t miss it.

2 thoughts on “Description of the Senses

  1. This is a very interesting post. I have to admit that I am terrible when it comes to adding the senses at all to my writing, as well as other descriptions. I focus so much on the character and moving things along that sometimes I forget those other elements.

    I have scent in one short story and it worked out great. I’ll have to learn from that and work on it more.

    Nice post.

  2. Senses are things we do tend to take for granted: take for example a young boy enjoying a peanut butter sandwich. He can smell it as it wafts from the jar, feel the knife smooth it on the bread, taste it as he licks it from the roof of his mouth and see the now empty plate.

    I believe you are correct that smell is one of the harder ones to relate. What some may enjoy others may find revolting. Like the smell of pancakes in the morning. Heaven to me, not so much for my wife.

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