Odoriferous Emanations – How to Create Sensory Memories On The Page

There is nothing quite like the smell of a boy’s bedroom before cleaning. The longer the odors marinate, the more your gag reflex kicks in while sanitizing. Us moms have a full arsenal of survival techniques that would make the CDC proud.

If I told you dirty socks and locker room grunge, you’d have a sensory memory that tells you what that smells like. Smell is the strongest sensory memory.

How can we create sensory memories on the page?

*Identify the scene emotion. This tip I learned from Susan May Warren at a workshop. Know the scene of the emotion to filter all of your verbs, descriptions and sensory memories through as you write.

*Think of a time when you have felt that emotion. When in your past have you felt the way your character is feeling now? Identify that moment.

*Identify the sensory input you experienced during that time. Sometimes we are in a place that has strong odors like oil, grease, dirty socks, coffee, etc.

*Connect that smell or sensory input to a moment many of us have experienced. There are some experiences only one person might have, but there are some situations we all have a memory for like baking chocolate chip cookies, vomit, chicken noodle soup, mildew, mothballs, chili, pizza, disinfectant, fruit, evergreen. The list goes on.

Let’s give it a try.

*Emotion:  Anxiety

*Time I felt anxiety: At the Hospital Waiting For News

*Sensory Input Experienced At That Time:  The smell of disinfectant, stale coffee in the waiting area, and the smoke on the clothes of the person next to you.

*I could connect it to my hospital visit waiting to hear how my loved one was doing. (A short clip to show how it can be integrated below)


Nothing over the last few weeks had prepared her for this. Desiree clutched her purse in white knuckled hands. The fluorescent light on the hallway ceiling glared down garishly and reflected off the courthouse floor. The smell of disinfectant and day old coffee clung to the roof of her mouth.

Not guilty. Please, let it be not guilty!

The hands of the clock ticked seconds down until impact like it had the day of her father’s car accident. She’d waited then, too. She’d waited while he died.

This is just a mini story clip to give you an idea of how you can incorporate the sense of smell. Most of us at one time or another have waited at a hospital for news of a loved one. The smells I utilized for the courthouse had some similarities and then I tied them together to that mutual feeling. I picked a more difficult one because I wanted to show how it can be done even in unusual circumstances.

Now it is your turn. Rewrite the clip above, but change the emotion to joy in the waiting area in a courthouse. OR Give an example of one of your favorite smell memories.

About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

One thought on “Odoriferous Emanations – How to Create Sensory Memories On The Page

  1. […] *Deepen Sensory Elements. Include each of the senses in the scene to create a deeper experience for your reader. […]

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