Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Smells, tastes, and noises

Locations can play a very important part in fiction: the places where the action takes place can arouse nostalgia in readers, or excitement, or a sense of armchair travel. When readers recognise the name of a place in a title, they are intrigued if it is a place they have visited on holiday, or if it is where they spent their childhood vacations. A book called "Romance at St Paul's Bay" would attract a great number of people who spent their adolescence walking up and down the promenade from St Paul's Bay to Bugibba, in Malta.
Locations are not only sights: they have smells and noises. There is nothing quite like the soft splash of an oar in the water very early in the morning, accompanied by the scent of drying seaweed and the slight hint of putrefaction, coming from old bait lying on the concrete wharf, at the Menqa in St Paul's Bay. Later in the day, there are the additions of frying fish, and the smell of hobz biz-zejt coming through open doors and kiosks.
I remember buying one of those seasoned rolls - filled with white beans, tuna, onion, tomato and lashings of olive oil - and a Kinnie, from the Sirens Water Polo Club. That is so long ago! But I still remember what it smelled like, and the taste is in my mouth now. I put some of these smells and tastes in my collection of short stories about Malta called Counting Churches. Hopefully, it will be out as an eBook very soon. Only two of the stories are available now. But you can get them very cheaply.

Food can be a fascinating addition to writing. Even in a novel, mentioning what the characters eat is a realistic slant. I have written about it here.

Noises are not as memory-jogging as smells and tastes - at least not for me. They are the hardest thing to include in a novel, but I do see that doing so effectively would make for a more lifelike story. I think there are a few noises in According to Luke, my forthcoming puzzle thriller that has the Rabat Priory in it as a location.
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