Sensory Exercises Week 1: Scent

August 16, 2006

This Wednesday begins a series of exercises, each week focusing on a different sense.

Today, we’re dealing with scent. The sense of smell is powerful in our lives, and also, in our work. Think of how the following affect you: freshly brewed coffee, garbage left out in the sun too long, a dog who’s just come in from the rain.

How would you communicate the emotions those scents trigger to someone who has no frame of reference for them?

When writing any sort of sensory detail, don’t be afraid to overwrite in the early drafts. Get down every specific and every evocation you can. Then, as you revise, cut, hone, get more precise, so what once may have taken a paragraph is now only a phrase. You don’t have to/need to cut out all the detail – just make sure you use the most illustrative words you can to communicate your objective.

In these five weeks, we will work on two sets of pieces simultaneously.

One will be a single story that will face revisions over a period of weeks as we add in ALL the exercises to a single story. That means, basically, you will write a short story this week, incorporating the scent I choose, and, each week, the story will be revised to include that week’s sense. By the end of this cycle, a single story will incorporate all the senses.

The second set of exercises will focus on the single sense. You will have a story each week that highlights what we’re working on. As we work through, week to week, each story will also incorporate more of the overall work, while still featuring the Sense Du Week.

For your own time constraints, I’d suggest working in short formats rather than longer ones, knowing you can carry further any of these stories beyond the exercises as far as they will go.

The Scent we work with between now and next Wednesday is:

The Scent of Hibiscus.

And. . .go!


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