My boyfriend brought home lilies as a sweet surprise the other night, and our house is now filled with their buoyant aroma. The powerful smell instantly warms me to the base of my belly, calling to mind the scent of fancy hotels and swanky theater lobbies. Lilies specifically remind me of childhood trips to New York City, back in the day when my father trekked us into the big apple for a Broadway show about once a year. In addition to seeing musicals, we would window shop at F.A.O. Schwartz and poke around the gift shops of hotels. My sisters and I swore to each other that one of us would make it big someday so we could all live in a New York hotel as adults, a fantasy that likely stemmed from reading Kay Thompson’s “Eloise” books before bed.
“Eloise” is a children’s book from the 1950s about a young girl who lives in The Plaza and skilfully has her way with the staff and guests. I think my sisters and I could have done without all of Eloise’s havoc, but the prospect of freshly starched sheets and ice-cream sundaes delivered by room service every night was absolutely divine. Our time in New York was always spent in this fog of imagining vacation as our everyday reality; it is this mix of fantasy, wanderlust, skyscrapers and the texture of playbill ink that comes to mind every time I smell lilies. Although my sisters and I haven’t quite figured out how to finance our Eloise lifestyles yet, the enveloping scent of these flowers makes it seem as though a lifetime at The Plaza is an imminent possibility. On a bad day, I’ll steer myself down the flower aisle just for a whiff of this scent; after all, possibility and nostalgia are the greatest pick-me-ups.
The same way lilies affect my mood and memory, the five senses also affect our readers. Delving into the sensuality of our writing might even help us work through trouble areas in our stories; whether you’re hoping to make audiences connect more with your scenes or just get yourself over a writing hump, try employing as many senses as possible in your work and see if this brings your story to life. Use touch, taste, smell, sound and sight, letting sensuality guide your work for a moment. And, don’t forget to have fun…Which of the five senses to you find most evocative when reading or writing?