Pay Attention

Here’s a brief lesson in paying attention.

I’ve belonged to various writing workshops and critique groups for over a decade.  I go through phases when I believe that none of the sundry writers in the group have a frackin’ clue as to what they’re talking about.  Either they’re not connected to my story in any way and make unbelievably retarded comments and suggestions, or they aren’t paying enough attention to the work at hand and never get into the meat of the writing.

But I note it all down, no matter how off-base or deluded I believe the comments to be, because you never know when one of those comments will come back as a flash of inspired brilliance.

For instance:

A few weeks ago, one of the better writers in my current group commented on how Sef, the created world in my new novel Plummet didn’t address all the sensory details that are required.  I believe her comment was – and I’m paraphrasing here – what does Sef smell like?

I wrote down her question and moved on.  Even when I was incorporating that week’s comments into the working manuscript, I didn’t really address it.  Ironically, while showering this morning, I suddenly realized that Sef – a repository for human memory – smells like entropy.   Now everyone will have a different idea what that means, but for me, it’s very specific.

Spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ home while growing up in Michigan.  My grandmother was very fond of mothballs and the use of fragrant cedar chests to store things in.  That house also smelled of fires burning and of cooking.  There was an underlying scent there, too.  One that was harder to name.  As there was a lot of turmoil and relationship issues in my family, there was that darker scent of things rotting underneath, like maybe a rodent had died in the crawlspace and was still there, decomposing.    Nothing you could really put your finger (or nose) on, but it was there.

Perhaps that’s retrospect talking, but it fits for my needs at the moment.  So I’m going back to that chapter and adding that in.

3 thoughts on “Pay Attention

  1. I hate when smell is brought up in critique groups. I always thought it so insignificant, but when it’s described, like you did of your grandmother’s house, it truly is important. Your description had me in the moment in ways the other senses could not have done as effectively.

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