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Hearing the Soundtrack of your Novel

hearing and writingMy discovery of the week:  hearing is a crucial sense. A novel needs a soundtrack just as much as any movie does.

I’ve always known that the sense of smell is important when I imagine the worlds of my novels.

But I’d never previously thought much about sound, though I savour it enormously in other people’s writing. (There may even be another blog on that!) I think I did put it in, mostly. Well, a bit. And not just conversation, either.

But somehow I’d forgotten when it came to my latest novel. So over these last few days I’ve been on a roller coaster of exploration and experiment – and revision! Continue reading

Creating Atmosphere 2 : Using Light and Shade

Creating atmosphere : with shade in the picture

contrast in shade

Light and shade help to create atmosphere. It doesn’t have to be deep gloom or blinding sunlight, just a degree of contrast.

To see what I’m getting at, have a look at the 3 pictures in the slider  below, showing roughly the same view of a snowy landscape, but in different kinds of light. I reckon the changes of light and shade move the viewer from misery (or at least gloom), through hope, to something much more positive.

The question is: can we do the same thing, subtly, with mere words? Continue reading

How Smell Evokes Memory and Emotion

smell evokes memory with oranges and fire

When I was a child, Christmas was the smell of oranges and cigars and the Christmas tree, resinous and strange.  Put any two of them together and it still bounces me right back into the past, bringing with it firelight, the bustle of friendly company, a sense of holding my breath in excitement. Smell is the first route by which I recall emotion.

Why smell evokes memory : the science bit

There is a reason for this, I find. Olfactory neurones in the upper part of the nose generate an impulse which signals the limbic system, that part of the brain which controls not only memory but also emotion, mood and behaviour.  Supposedly, this is one of the most primitive parts of the brain.

Smell — the fallen angel of senses?

Apparently, Helen Keller called smell “the fallen angel of the human senses” because we don’t use it any more to tell us there’s a tiger in the area. And I agree that we live in an intensely visual age, with more communication illustrated than ever before.

smell evokes memory when couples kissBut we do still smell food that has gone off.

And, even more important to the romantic novelist, smell is an important part of sexual attraction. Continue reading