Friday 28 May 2010

Red smells like rekindled desire

If you didn't stop by yesterday take a quick peek at yesterdays post as today is a continuation of the same issue. And wow! All your ideas yesterday have put me to shame! Here is the excerpt in which I express red having a smell. I'm afraid after all your wonderful ideas this seems meek, but I'm not one to back out, so here we are:

On the night of my birthday he put on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’, and set the dining room table with four large black square plates, painted silver round the edges. He’d bought a brand new crimson tablecloth and set it using my grandma’s silver cutlery that I’d stored away in some difficult-to-reach place I could not recall. The dining room, filled with the scent of red, shimmered with light from the fireplace. With thick muffled heart throbs, drowning out all other sound, I asked him who was making dinner, because he hadn’t started to cook anything, but he did nothing but smile, kiss my cheek and pat me on the head like I was the dog.

So, does the scent of red serve it's purpose here? Does it work? Insert the word rose after red, for example, and see how much of a difference it makes to the meaning of the whole passage. Red no longer refers to an emotion, but a physical object, and I feel has much less impact. What do you think?


  1. Rose would imply romantic, but the last line about being patted like a dog doesn't seem romantic.

  2. I still think an English red rose has the same effect, love the excercise.


  3. That's an awsome line -- your friends are on crack! The most obvious association is passion, but "smelled of red" is ambiguous (sp?) enough to be romance or vendetta, equally passionate.

  4. It could be anything. Spaghetti sauce, red roses on the table, anger circling the room because he's making up for a fight. You simply can not put rose in after red. The impact dwindles to nothing!

  5. P.S. love how you put this situation forth to your blog readers. I'll have to steal your idea for a problem in my WiP.

  6. Truthfully, I like the line, it's the color of the plates and tablecloth I don't like. If I may --

    On the night of my birthday he put on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’, and set the dining room table with four large silver square plates, painted black round the edges. He’d scrubbed the mahogany table until it shone and set it using my grandma’s silver cutlery that I’d stored away in some difficult-to-reach place I could not recall. The dining room, filled with the scent of red, shimmered with light from the fireplace.

    I was a chef in a former life and eating on black with a red background isn't a good visual conducive for food.

  7. I'd guess it's the associations we make with the color and imply the smell. Here I'd think she'd be angry for being patted on the head.

  8. I actually prefer it the way you have it. It makes me think of how it might smell.

  9. Your book cover is great, and unique enough to stand out on the shelf. But it reminds me that I haven't picked up an instrument in way too long :(

  10. I agree with Will. It allows me to wonder. I like that. It is ambiguous but, for me, it draws me in closer wanting to know What?? I like the poetic license. *wink*

  11. I like how you left it as red smell. Red roses make me think of romance too, but there was something more poetic with it just as red smell.

  12. Not knowing anything about your story, this excerpt is hooking me bigtime as the phrase the "smell of red", the not cooking anything (shows lack of caring) and the patting on the head like a dog, not to mention her heart throbbing (is it from passion or from fear?) makes me think she's in a scary relationship here and the smell of red implies the smell of blood as well.

    Anyway, I freakin' LOVE THIS!!!

  13. This is really neat. I like how you did this. Although I may like it the way it is.
    Very interesting.
    I left something on my blog for you on yesterdays post.
    Have a great weekend.

  14. I feel like the use of 'smell of red' is kind of subdued here. I think it's a really cool and original description and I would place it in a way so that it stands out and gets the right symbolism across. If the scent of red in this case smells like roses, than I would just say 'scent of red roses'. But if you're going for something to reflect the emotion ir deeper meaning of the scene, I would leave as is. Does this make any sense?

  15. I think it's great. I think the fact that it is the ONE ambiguous description really makes it stand out. It's clear from other clues that not every is wonderful in this situation but I love that it leaves the interpretation of the olfactory to the reader.

    Today's guest blogger is THE Elana Johnson!

  16. I'm sorry, go ahead and smack me, I don't get it. I have no idea what smell you are referring to here.

    Yesterday I thought hot/anger when I thought of red. The passage is more romantic and (for me) red doesn't give off that emotion. I'm weird though...not average. LoL

    It fits with what you have written, and it stands out.


  17. Mmmm, I do like this. Actually, I'm entranced by all the very vivid colors in the passage.

    This 'red' makes me think of cinnamon, hearth, and home. Something cozy, yet very much alive.

    This is some good writing!

  18. I can't imagine putting a red rose into this. If so, after the pat on the head, the reader would close the book and walk away. I don't understand why your friends came down so hard on using red as you did. To me, this is very visual and works!! However, I do like how Pietmont Writer smoothed it out for you, except that I would ditch the silver plates for crimson plates...silver's just too delicate, too shiny for this Mars-Venus exchange. And oh how brave you are for putting this out. You've got style, girl!

  19. Hmmm. I'm not sure if I like it or not. I mean, I get what you are trying to convey, but it's also one of those things, a reach if you will, that either works with an agent/editor or not.

    You could compromise and write something like, "the dining room, filled with red, shimmered with light from the fireplace ..."

    In other words, keep the red, lose the scent. But if you like it, by all means keep it. :)

  20. I still really like 'the scent of red', but it's a little confusing because it's surrounded by tangible things, if that makes any sense.
    Still, beautiful scene, and if I was reading it for the first time, I'd still think the scent of red was beautiful - it's a poetic phrase in a poetic paragraph, so I think it works pretty well. :D

  21. wow i love this little snippet -- so powerful, and i can really imagine the scent of 'red' as an idea. it sounds lush and provocative.

    well done!

    and i love that last line! hehe

  22. I think this is a great piece and I have to say I'm with quite a few of the others when I say I like the way you have it, it gives the reader something to think about, the smells they would think of rather than inserting something to give the smell to them. Very open ended that way!

    What a great way to sneak a few opinions! I love it!

  23. While I think objects can be very effective ('red rose' can work very well), I think the use of the colour to convey the emotion works better here. Great piece!

  24. Clever. I have never considered "red as a smell" but this is quite vivid. And rather than tell me what the smell is, I am allowed, as the reader, to have all kinds of ideas. Nicely done.

  25. Red's not coming off as roses or romantic for me, either. I agree with Karen - makes me think of fear. And heat.

  26. This is so relevant, thanks for this post! I was so torn apart by this:
    On one side I´m not sure if general reader joe would have gotten it. But on the other, as a writer, I feel it is so rich!

    My reader self might have prefered red roses, but my writer self thinks it´s so genious! I dont know what to do...overload,overload!

  27. Go with your instincts. They seldom let you down, Roland

  28. I really like this line, actually. I think it works well mixed in with the narrative.

  29. ALLIALLO ~
    Here's my 2-cents:

    "...Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’...four large black square plates...silver round the edges...crimson tablecloth...grandma’s silver cutlery...filled with the scent of red"

    On one hand, I really like the IDEA of using "the scent of red", but on the other hand, by also writing in the same paragraph "blue", "black", "silver", "crimson", and "silver" again, before saying that the room "filled with the scent of red", I think it creates a clashing that dilutes the idea of a "red scent".

    If I were going to go with that concept at all, I would first eliminate at least a little of the "red scent's" color competition.

    Also, I think whether or not you should use it depends upon how important it is for you to draw the reader into the scene and keep her there. If this is more of a voyeuristic experience, I think you can get away with it. But if your intent is to make the reader really FEEL as if she is in the scene, it might be detrimental to that purpose.

    It's like in watching a movie - if the director and cinematographer get too gimmicky, it will immediately pull the viewer out of the story to the point where he is thinking: Oh, look how cool that shot is! But the moment he's thinking that, he's also outside of the story rather than within it.

    In some cases, this is perfectly fine, if one intent of the director is to wow the viewer with creative photography and unique effects, etc. But if the director really intends to keep the viewer totally immersed in the story that is unfolding on the silver screen, he needs to be careful not to call too much attention to factors somewhat extraneous to the story development.

    In other words, a viewer can't be simultaneously impressed by the photography AND fully emotionally engaged in the story. It's one or the other, and the director has to make a conscious decision about where his priorities are.

    That's the situation I think you're faced with here. I myself really like the idea of it, but it is a device that the reader is so unaccustomed to, I think it's a certainty that she will, at least momentarily, find herself outside looking in, rather than inside and sharing feelings with your character.

    So, I think you must decide whether or not this really advances the goal that you have set for this scene. What type of story is this? Does the device in this scene serve that type of story? I can see something like this being either very effective or detrimental depending upon the circumstances. Being the writer, you're the only one who can really answer these questions.

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens

  30. Even though ALONE, I thought of red as smelling different--the fire and romance of it give it context for 'warmth' that I think works...

  31. The scent of red.

    That's a bit of poetry, isn't it?

  32. I like it as is. I don't always want the author telling me every single detail.

    And when I read yesterday's (I didn't comment) I thought of blood. :p

  33. I agree with you. Hey, I like this online crit thing you have going. I should do the same with my WIP--great idea, Jessica! :D

  34. I like it.
    I think if you inserted something physical you do loose the meaning of what you are trying to create. :)

  35. I really like the idea of "scent of red," and the way it works in the paragraph, it's great. Although I do agree with Stephen, that the other colors, especially the emphasis on "Blue," does dilute the red a bit. However, I do like it lots!

  36. I don't think I guessed right! I like it though! Do not put a noun after red...Leave it as is! We're so allowed as writers to let our readers guess & wonder.

  37. I think it works well in the scene you're setting - I like it - unusual and creative :)

  38. Hi Jessica, if you go to my blog page under the entry welcome to my world of awards there is something for you.


  39. Thanks everyone! For those of you who haven't got their email addresses activated (I respond to your comments via email) would you consider activating them so that I can respond to your comments instantly from my email? It would be awesome if you could :) But for now, those that I wasn't able to respond to are below (as far as I can remember):

    Yvonne: Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    Will: Thank you. I believe they may be on crack too :)

    Amie: Thank you. Spot on! and yeah, steal away! :)

    Laura: LOL. Yes that could be true too.

    Will: You haven't? Me neither ... The troubled lives of the creative spirits, hey?

    Sugar: Thank you!

    Stina: Thank you. I agree!

    Matthew: Thank you Matthew!

    Terry: Yeah, I see what you mean. But by taking scent out, it loses it's spark. The scent is sort of like smelling tension, pheromones. :)

    Bethany: Thanks :)

    Tahereh: LOL Thanks!

    Sangu: Thank you!

    Dawn: Thank you!

    Clara: LOLOLOL yes, I get your point!

    Roland: Thanks, Roland. I find that too!

    Lydia: What do you mean? An exisiting one? I have no idea.

    Shannon: Thank you!

    Elizabeth: I actually hadn't intended it to be for the purpose of crit. I just really thought it was an interesting topic of converstion! :) But yeah, go ahead!

    Lindsay: Me too :)

    Sandy Shin: Yeah, I agree with Stephen too :) I hadn't thought about that.

    Yvonne: On my way!

  40. When I read "the scent of red," I like it because I have never heard of a color having a scent(like you said). However, I can't quite associate a scent with it. To me, it's kind of ominous, like blood or anger.

  41. Hey, Jessica! Guess what? You won the Ultimate Blog Interview Contest! Thanks so much for participating - I can't wait to feature you on my blog! Send me your email address so we can figure out what we're doing and so I can send you the six questions. Love your blog and thanks again!!

  42. Red stems from the blood, which when running fast, would invoke passion—both anger and love. So I tend to always think of it as hot like cinnamon, or a deep wine or dark rose.

    I like your prose. Very nice!

  43. I think of the deep rusty smell of shiraz with red, but the colour does also conjure up memories of chinese take-away from childhood.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog the other day, Australia is as sleepy and happy as ever. It's raining a lot lately where we are, and that's a smell I do love :-)

  44. When I think of the scent of red, I think of cinnamon. But in the setting that you placed the word, I didn't come up with a smell, but did think "sensual." That was a good twist at the end. You set us up with the visuals and the man (husband/boyfriend) who'd made dinner and did all the arrangements, then patted her on the head like a dog. Great twist.

    Straight From Hel

  45. It works for me. I have a hard time with metaphors, similies, and symbolism, so I'm fascinated when other writers pull it off so well.

    This scene has ambiance, and the "red" scent lends a sense of unsurety and mystery.

    Good job.


  46. Jessica, thanks for dropping by my blog and commenting. I will take your advise and check on your research into small presses.

    Thanks for taking the time to care and write. It means a lot to me. May your surroundings prove to be less violent and unsettling, Roland


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