Saturday, March 23, 2013

Smells Are Underrated

Soapbox time: When I watch a TV show or movie, the one glaring thing missing is the smell associated with a scene. I've had enough life experiences to equate certain smells to certain events. I was a firefighter and filled my snoot with all sorts of things I'd prefer to forget, but were essential in recognition of the circumstances.

Some examples come to mind: The first is an injury auto accident and the broken glass and blood smell it emits. The second is the unique, pungent smell of a house fire. Thirdly, the smell of propane leaking under pressure.

Of course, barnyard smells, dead body smells, wet dog smells, and all the rest in a person's life experience drift into memories they have. Reading stories without smells described are almost sterile. It helps add depth to a scene. It can be pleasant or gruesome or some combination in between, but it helps to complete the setting.

Would a viewer or reader be less inclined to be enthralled with a story where the smell of blood, feces and burnt gunpowder is aptly described? At least it might make the scene more memorable, but it might be too realistic. I've smelled awful perfumes like that, too, and the mere mention of cheap perfume causes me to fight off a gag reflex.

There is a balance. That's what good writers do, in my way of thinking. The reader deserves the blanks to be filled in.


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