Friday, April 8, 2011

Sense Memory

In many ways, writing and acting are alike. Both fields use sense memory. The five senses. To see, hear, taste, smell and touch. We see and write about the colors in a landscape, surroundings, architecture, and the color of water in an ocean, a lake, a pool or a glass. We describe grass, flowers or trees as they change with the seasons. We place a character in a meadow and sense how she will react. A memory of the tang of that perfect cup of coffee, the bitterness of cough medicine that will keep you from ever spreading cherry preserves on a piece of toast again, gelato so enticing you could hardly choose a favorite and the sweetness of the first summer corn will become part of a character’s tastes. A melody sung by someone you had a crush on in your teens, a riff repeated by a jazz musician that reminds you of a long-ago festival, classic music that brings a remembrance of a recording played by a favorite relative—all a part of you and the characters you create. The faint scent of a favorite perfume, your lover’s after-shave, pungent smells of pickles and deli, the stench when a sewer backs up, the pungent fragrance of earth after a steady fall of rain—all return when we need them. The touch of a comforting hand placed on your back when you’re ill, the softness of silk underwear, the rough tongue of an affectionate cat, a child’s hand in yours. All these sense memories come to our aid transformed into a feeling that belongs to a character we’ve created from our memories and those we’ve observed in others.



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