Writing Advice

How to value your reader’s time by engaging them in the story, Part III

Universal Pen

Ok, so now we’ve established that you need to have your reader visualize what’s going on in the story. Right?

Glad we’re on the same page.

Let’s talk about another sense that is critical to helping your reader get the most out of his/her reading experience.


Yes. You read correctly.

Smell is the most underated/unused of the senses when it comes to flexing your writing arsenal. And it is critical to engaging your reader.

Need an example? No problem. I got you covered.

Example one: Megan ran through the swamp and stopped to eye the marshes. The smell was unbearble. She wished she was at home with her Jack Russell terrier, Mr. Pickles.

Hmmmmm. We can do better. I know we can. How about this?

Example two: Megan ran through the swamp. Her boots felt like weights, tying her down to the marshes. She stopped to catch her breath, and almost retched when the smell of rotten eggs and vinegar invaded her nostrils. Yes, she knew where it was coming from. The swamp. She wished her beloved Jack Russell Terrier, Mr. Pickles, was here.

Better. Much better.

See how important smell is? Especially when you want your reader to connect with your story and continue reading?

It all comes down to this: when you’re writing and are hard pressed to come up with good narrative. Senses can save you and help you build a bridge with your reader.

And that’s why smell is so important. Don’t “tell” the reader it stinks. Show them. It’s the only way.

Ok. Got time for one more example? Sure you do, read on.

Example one: Bob looked into his refrigerator and sighed. Nothing worthwile to eat remained. He decided to take a sip of milk and when he opened the carton he cursed. It stunk. Bad. Then he checked the expiration date. It had expired five weeks ago.

Now try this.

Example two: Bob looked into his refrigerator and sighed. He didn’t see anything he could munch on and he was damn hungry. He took the milk carton and was about to guzzle some milk when he cursed. The milk smelled like old tennis shoes that had been left out in the rain for too long. He tossed the carton in the trash bin and decided he needed to go shopping.

Lot better. Don’t you think?

So. One more time: when trying to get your reader to love your story. Don’t ever neglect the powerful sense of smell.

See you next time my friends.


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