I was not waiting for snow but when it came last week I could not help myself I had to go out for
a walk and take my camera with me. I turned the corner to round the house and the view and smell hit me
at the same time – it smelled like a post card. Yes, it smelled like a post card.
The view of the lake and the neighbour’s snow covered canoe were like a Normal Rockwell
painting, it was what winter looks like on a Christmas card, and then it hit me – the smell of someone’s
wood fire drifting over our yard, and the moment was perfect, my camera is pretty good but it does not
Ever notice how some writers have a way of taking you not only to the place but the exact
moment and when you are done reading you feel like you have been to the experience? They describe so
much more than the physical characteristics of the location. They appeal to all your senses and that is
what makes them a great writer.
Researchers tell us that our memory of smell is 75 times more accurate than our visual memory,
so adding a descriptor of the smell takes the reader to the location and the time so much more accurately.
I could have told you that it snowed last week, or I could tell you that the view of the lake smelled like a
post card? Which gives you a clearer image, which makes you feel closer to being there?
I get a lot of questions from beginning writers about how much description they should use, and
my answer is the same every time. “Enough to make the reader feel that they are part of the scene” Sure it
is an easy answer and a bit of a cop out but it is the truth.
If you are like me you enjoy reading and novel, a short story, even a feature newspaper article
where I feel like I have been there. So for writers your job is to take the reader to the scene, and elicit the
feelings of the experience that is most easily done by appealing to more that one sense, the visual told you
about the snow, but the smell of the wood fire added to it.
Now what if we added the part about the sound of the snow under my boots as I walked down to
the lake, and the feel of it sticking to my boots like Red River clay after a rain in the spring time. That is
sticky! Are you there yet?
It was a great experience, I hope I have captured some of it, but more I hope I have encouraged
you to include a bit more in your description of a situation, regardless of what you are writing.