Archive for the ‘Setting’ Category

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Smelling the Setting: My Novel Isn’t Smelly Enough!

December 1, 2010


I realized recently that my novel doesn’t smell right, by which I mean it doesn’t have enough smells.

The setting of my book is London, 1813–a time of a particular…er…olfactory ripeness when horses pooped in the streets, people rarely bathed or had clean teeth and everyone tossed their body wastes into the gutter.

In other words, if my dream were to suddenly come true and I was instantly tele-ported back in time to London of 1813–let’s say, in the crush of an Almack’s ball scene in high summer, for instance–I would probably take one whiff and pass out from the shock of it. My delicate modern day nose wouldn’t be able to handle all of that body odor!

Eau de London 1813. Ew, indeed.

Smells, however, can make a place come alive. Scent is a very powerful body sense, linked to taste. If I say ‘lemon’ your mouth can curdle. If I say ‘coal smoke’, my nose can feel that acrid burn. Bringing these essences to the setting enrich it, make it believable, livable, alive.

I’ve decided my novel isn’t smelly enough.

Is yours?