Good morning! Today’s Quick-Write is courtesy of guest author Lisa Schroeder. She’s the author of five young adult novels including THE DAY BEFORE and the upcoming FALLING FOR YOU, all with Simon Pulse. She’s also the author of the middle grade novels IT’S RAINING CUPCAKES, SPRINKLES AND SECRETS and the upcoming FROSTING AND FRIENDSHIP (Aladdin). You can find her on the web at www.lisaschroederbooks.com and on twitter at www.twitter.com/lisa_schroeder.
My grandparents lived on a farm and I spent a lot of time there as a child and a teen. I have lots of wonderful memories, as you can imagine. It wasn’t a working farm, but a farm where they had goats for milk and to keep the grass down and mules for their annual hunting trips in Eastern Oregon.
There is a special place in my heart for the farm and for my dear grandparents who are no longer with us, and so, it’s always thrilling when I’m somewhere, not thinking about it at all, and I get a whiff of something that takes me back to that place. Have you ever noticed how smells have the ability to elicit strong memories? It’s pretty amazing, and I love it when it happens and brings up a happy memory from the farm. It might happen when our family visits the apple farm every fall or when or when I’m walking and the air has a certain grassy scent and I’m suddenly back there, hanging on to the tire swing that hung from the big, old willow tree.
Today I’d like you to think about smells and sounds. Adding in sensory details is often something you do as you revise, but here’s an exercise you can do anytime, that will help when you’re ready to read through your manuscript with an eye on the details.
List three places your character visits in the story. For example: school, grandma’s house, and the zoo.
Now, with those three places, start brainstorming things your character might smell while there. Get creative! Imagine the people who are nearby as well as what that specific place may smell like. Don’t limit yourself to only good smells or only bad smells. Try and find both. At first, you may have trouble describing the scent in detail, and that’s okay. Don’t edit yourself, just write your thoughts down. When you have a bunch of possibilities, then you can start working on how you describe the various smells. It’s not always easy, I know. You probably won’t use the entire list, but if you can come up with one or two good descriptions, you’ll find it adds a lot to your scenes.
Also brainstorm sounds your character might hear. In some cases, you will struggle to get a couple. But in other places, you will be able to get a lot. It’s those places where you want to make sure you add in some of those details to make the experience as rich for your reader as it is for your character.
This is a great exercise you can do just about anywhere – take a notebook along when you’re taking your kids to an appointment, and work on your lists while you wait.
Have fun awakening your senses and happy writing!