Last week in my magazine writing class, we were discussing how to write a memoir. One of the suggestions for effectively constructing one is to write very descriptive prose so the audience can use its senses to stay with your writing. The ability to heighten the sense of sight, smell, sound, taste, or touch can captivate readers as we take them on a ride. Apparently, the most powerful of the senses is smell—a scent can remind you of something immediately, can bring you back in time, and can arouse your sense of nostalgia. In fact, one writing exercise I tackled was to write a scene where a smell enters a room and one character is unaffected by the smell, while the other begins to feel emotions that she felt in the past, just from this one odor. To read what I did with it, click here. I loved this scene so much, I altered it slightly to include it in my novel.
The sense of smell is strong, we know that. However, sound…in particular, listening to a love song, can take you back in an instant as well. It’s lovely when a beautiful ballad reminds us of something we want to hold on to, ’tis true. However, the difficulty comes into play when it reminds us of something or someone that perhaps we don’t want to be reminded of any longer. We once loved an artist, but now, when that particular song comes on the radio or on our iPods, our hand moves to click away from it. Such a shame, really. There are so many brilliant love songs out there.
In an instant, whenever I hear The Police’s “Every Breath You Take,” it brings me back to my senior year of high school and my first boyfriend. I’m sure you all have songs like that—ones that instantly transport you to a specific place and time. I still love that song. Then, there are others, ones that shall remain nameless to protect myself (lol) because they trigger a memory too painful to retain in my overloaded brain. I wish I could let those go, but I can’t. It’s impossible. We’re in our cars driving, and one comes on, and no matter how fast I go to change the station, it’s too late. The song has brutally attached itself to my memory, and it must endure for as long as my brain is functional. It will not go away.
And that’s the problem with love songs.