Friday, 12 July 2013

The scent of fear


Before my summer can really begin, there's another edit of the manuscript to be done. In some ways this is the most enjoyable part of the process, the evaluation of individual words and images, the close work of the novel, if you like.

Why the spices? Well, I was trying to describe the scent of fear. It's a subtle but absolutely crucial part of the book, and clearly must be done with both precision and delicacy. According to scientists, the smell of fear is absolutely real and produced by pheromones when the body experiences terror. It's even contagious, in that other people react to the smell - usually subliminally, as this chemical part is very difficult for the human nose to detect.

So what exactly does fear smell of? Wild animals, it seems. Or rather, their bodily functions. A hint of musk and ammonia. Apparently, that old perfume-maker's ingredient civet oil, used to warm and deepen a fragrance, has a touch of it. Which could explain why Guerlain's Jicky, which contains it, can go a bit, well, manure-y, after several hours if applied too lavishly.

There's an element of sweat, obviously, and all I could think of was cumin, the pungent spice that gives Chilli con Carne the authentic whiff of Mexican Armpit. Somehow I don't think that comparison is going to work in a novel...but it's a good excuse to show this stunning display of spices, the fragrance of which rose like a Moroccan cloud (not sure that works either...!). Harder than it looks, this description business.

9 comments:

Gill Edwards said...

I dont know if you watch a program called Mythbusters on the discovery channel but they recently did a program about the smell of fear. I cant begin to imagine how amazing the scent from that stall must have been.

Gill x

Deborah Lawrenson said...

Hello Gill! No, I didn't see that -we don't have satellite TV - but it is a fascinating subject. The scent from the spice stall is incredible. Wish I could do it justice!

MuMuGB said...

To me, the smell of spices is the smell of travel. It reminds me of the sooks in the Middle East. I could do with a little travel right now!

James Kiester said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Kiester said...

Interesting, I've never associated spiced aromas with fear, but then I'm a foodie. Considering that fear can lead to the involuntary expulsion of
"bodily waste," I'd think of those odors.

Marcheline said...

Fear aside, I think going to that market would be like a trip to heaven. I adore Middle Eastern food, and those baskets of spices are exactly what one would need to cook up my favorite dishes. How wonderful to buy them out in the open like that, instead of suffocated in plastic bottles!

Bunched Undies said...

Reminds me, I need to order some cardamon pods. Wish I could just run down to wonderful market like this and pick some up.

aguja said...

An interesting post, Deborah. I wish you well with your editing; may each word be perfect in its context. I am looking forward to your coming novel.

Vanessa said...

One of our local markets has a stall selling only spices. You can smell it from 50 metres!

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