Seducing the Muse: Using the Five Senses (Part One)
The muse is a fickle thing, and a good writer, like a good lover, knows how to use all five senses to seduce him or her (I do not presume to know the gender of anyone else’s muse).
First a caveat: most of us not blessed with independent means must learn to write under less-than-ideal crcumstances, whenever and wherever we can snatch of few minutes. I would hate to encourage anyone to use ‘I must have the perfect environment to write’ as an excuse to put off writing. (Procrastination deserves it’s own blog entry. When I get around to it. Someday.) But when you re still in the early-inspiration stage, or have been writing for a while and are stuck, or any time you have the time to indulge yourelf a little in pursuit of the craft, I highly recommend playing with the following:
I’ve started with this one, because it’s my favorite, the one I’ve found most useful. I am probably not alone; studies have shown that, of all the senses, the sense of smell often most powerfully evokes subconscious memories.
Scent is also one of the easiest parts of you environment to manipulate. Incense, scented candles, essential oils are all cheap and readily available. Experiment with what scents help you get in touch with a particular character, setting, mood.
In doing the final polish for Stolen Luck, I used apple-orchard and fall-scented candles for the part of the novel that took place in the autumn, and at the vineyard. Yes, an orchard is not a vineyard, but the Dupree lands have a few orchards for private use, and it was as close as I could come. Besides, it’s all about what feels right, not what makes external logical sense. Working on the chapters that took place in the Lands Between, I used a lot of dewy-meadows-and-spring scents to evoke the ever-green, undying quality of the elven lands.
Having already learned the value of scent by the time I started Ravensblood, I used it in the very early stages, A long soak in essential-oil laden bathwater, with sandalwood and frankinsence incense curling long, gray tendrils of smoke yielded much of the second chapter (written longhand on a slightly soggy notebook. If I could figure out a safe way to have a laptop in the bathub, you’d never get me out again.)
I’m still working on the right scent for my current novel-in-progress. When I hit it, I think I’ll have a much better sense of where it’s all going.