Yes, I am referring to myself in the title of this post, but I’m not using the traditional definition of the word. My wife might beg to differ, but I am not foolish. Nor am I a victim of some WRiTE CLUB sucker punch, rendering me unconscious. And hopefully my
minutes hour upon
hour of contemplative thought will not proof meaningless. Nope, in this
situation I’m using a derivative literal meaning of the word…in that I lack
One sense in particular that is… SMELL. I’ve discussed it here on my blog before, but I was born without that particular ability. Over the years I’ve come to look at my handicap as more of a super-power than anything else. For instance, I’m impervious to skunks! Rotting meat or dairy have no effect on me. Human waste…nada. Vomit, cigarettes, body odor, bad breath, road kill, stagnant water, wet dog, all zilch. Of course having this super-power has meant some extra chores around the house, like changing all of the “shuey” diapers or cleaning up after a 24 stomach flu cuts a slimy path through our family.
For a good many years a much younger DL pretended he could smell because he thought he wasn’t doing it right and didn’t want to be made fun of. Even after I found out I was actually different (and confirmed by a trip to the doctor with mom), I continued to allow people to think I could smell. You see, for a boy who did his best to avoid any kind of scrutiny, having to explain why I couldn’t do what everybody else in the world could do just wasn’t fun. The charade ended when I was a freshman in college after one particularly disastrous date involving a compliment and the worst case of timing ever. The evening was just getting started when I told the girl how lovely her perfume was (guys were supposed to do that…right). Her mood suddenly changed and not long after that she brought the date to an abrupt end. I didn’t find out until a week later that she had just passed a SBD (silent but deadly) right before I mentioned her perfume, which she wasn’t wearing. She apparently didn’t appreciate my sense of humor…or have any sense of humor herself. I stopped pretending to smell that day.
As writers we are told to engage our senses and have our readers do the same through our prose. Sight, Sound, Touch, Taste, and Smell. Not having a sense of smell does place me in a slight disadvantage because it alters how I interact with the world. I cannot tell when the weather is about to change by the scent of rain in the air. I am not drawn to or tempted by things I cannot see, but have an aroma. Did you know that our sense of smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than any other of our senses and recognition of smell is immediate? Other senses like touch and taste must travel through the body via neurons and the spinal cord before reaching the brain, whereas the olfactory response is immediate, extending directly to the brain. The olfactory cortex is embedded within the brain’s limbic system and amygdala, where emotions are born and emotional memories stored. That’s why smells, feelings and memories become so easily and intimately entangled. I’ve often wondered if my terrible recall was due to my lack of smell.
Disadvantage or not, whatever the sense, we all have a writer’s imagination to lean on. Though my nose hasn’t smelled the scent of an apple pie baking in a country kitchen, being carried through the house by a warm spring breeze, my mind has. I can recreate that experience on the page, adding delicious detail to a scene, but I have to remember not to overlook is how moods might be lifted or an especially poignant memory could be remembered as a result.
Describing the world in which our characters exist via their senses is essential, but demonstrating how emotions are unconsciously entwined with those same perceptions is a step above.
Have any entertaining stories revolving around smell that you’d care to share?
Have a great weekend! :)