In my writers group, we’ve had many conversations about all the aspects of telling a vivid story. One of the keys is sensory description, and many writers under-utilize the sense of smell. It’s a powerful tool, though, as scent is a powerful pathway to our memories and emotions. There’s an article on How Stuff Works that does a nice job of discussing the power of scent. This quote is from the article’s opening:
A smell can bring on a flood of memories, influence people’s moods and even affect their work performance. Because the olfactory bulb is part of the brain’s limbic system, an area so closely associated with memory and feeling it’s sometimes called the “emotional brain,” smell can call up memories and powerful responses almost instantaneously.
When I saw that the Daily Post’s prompt today was about scent, I knew I had to go for it. In 7th grade, my English teacher always had a pot of hazelnut coffee brewing in her room. She drank it constantly and the smell of it saturated everything. The other thing her room was filled with was books. She had her own small library of books she had collected specifically to loan out to students. Periodically, I want to say once a week, our lesson involved free reading time. We were free to borrow from her library, or bring a book of our own, and the only rule was that we had to spend reading time reading.
Reading time immediately became my favorite part of 7th grade. Class time devoted to nothing but devouring book pages? What’s not to love? Over the course of the year, I spent hours sitting in that room breathing in the smell of hazelnut coffee and turning pages in my latest favorite book. Some days, I dearly wish I could go back in time and spend a few hours there again.
While the public library kept me well-supplied with books, I did occasionally borrow one from my teacher’s library. The books smelled like coffee.