Sounds and Smells in All the Light We Cannot See + Writing Prompts

all-the-light-we-cannot-seeIts always a bit of a challenge to include all 5 senses in my writing. Personally, I am always heavy on sight and slacking in taste, scent, and sound. Even with that knowledge of myself, the senses still slip my mind when I’m writing.

All the Light We Cannot See has opened my ears in a way no other fiction has. One of the main characters is deaf, forcing the author, Anthony Doerr, to rely on the other senses for description. Instead of physical features to describe a character, Doerr describes the quality of their voice or their typical scent.

Read a few quotes from the book and then challenge yourself with the writing prompts below!

Smell Quotes

“Madame Ruelle, the baker’s wife–a pretty-voiced woman who smells mostly of yeast but also sometimes of face powder or the sweet perfume of sliced apples–…”

“They smell of stale bread, of stuffy living rooms crammed with dark titanic Breton furnishings.”

“The cross a seething thoroughfare, then go up an alley that smells like a muddy ditch.”

Sound Quotes

“Always there is the muted rattling of her father’s tools inside his rucksack and the distant and incessant honking of automobile horns.”

“From outside comes a light tinkling, fragments of glass, perhaps, falling into the streets. It sounds both beautiful and strange, as though gemstones were raining from the sky.”

“Marie-Laure hears the fsst of her father lighting another match.”

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Writing Prompts

2) Write a few sentences including as many senses as possible. Sight. Sound. Smell. Touch. Taste.

My Examples:

With an ice cold glass of bitter lemonade freezing my hand, I close my eyes, sink into the cushioned lawn chair, and smell my neighbor’s freshly-washed bedsheets that look like ghosts unafraid of the sun.

I scrape the heels of my once-white tennis shoes along the pavement, sending echoes of clattering pebbles up and down the dark, rancid alley.

The musty closet smell that lingered around her like smoke didn’t help her olive-corduroy-and-faded-t-shirt look that alone made me want to gag on my first bite of grilled cheese.

As piano music drifted into the room from somewhere far, far away, he took in the shine of her lipgloss that tasted like cheery pie, the familiar scent of a perfume he would never know the name of, and ran his finger along the thin scar on her wrist.

2) Create a character description using NO visuals.

My Example:

I kept my eyes focused on the book in my lap as I heard the whisper of swishing pant legs and the quiet crunch of shoes on gravel approaching. My bench gave a gentle jerk as the stranger sat on the bench back to back with mine. Deep, soft grunts accompanied the thud of a dropped bag on the ground and the sinking into the bench. The stench that followed sent a lump into my throat that I forced back down with a swallow. I held my breath until I was able to open my mouth again, refusing to breath through my nose. When I was in high school, my dad bought brussels sprouts in attempt to add variety to our diet; they sat in the back of the fridge for weeks until my friends and I decided to fill a pizza box with the most disgusting things we could find and leave it on a friends doorstep as we rang their bell and ran. The smell of the rotten brussels sprouts and the green face of my friend as she opened the pizza box has never left my mind. I have never smelled anything as horrid as those rotten brussels sprouts but the stranger who sat on the bench behind me came in a close second. As I continued to read my book, the smell became palpable; I began to breath through my nose again because the stench began settling on my tongue with a texture like honey. As the sun beat down on our shoulders, the stranger began to snore. Quick, growling snores that came irregularly and without warning. I slipped my book into my canvas bag and rose from the bench, trying and failing not to look over my shoulder as I walked away.

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About Sarah JS

Aspiring writer, lover of words, book nerd, working editor, and permanent student of the world

Posted on September 2, 2015, in Writing, Writing Prompts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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