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.