Smells detonate softly in our memory…

Word count: 207 words

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

A great way to improve your writing skills is to emulate the work of others. Here is a sentence by Diane Ackerman that I read recently that I’d happily imitate.  

If you want to write a memorable sentence, be sure to use imagery. In her book, A Natural History of the Senses, author, poet and naturalist Diane Ackerman offers a meditation on our five senses. Here is a sentence I liked in particular:

Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant landmines hidden under the weedy mass of years.

I like her verb, detonate — so explosive, so evocative. But how does anything detonate softly? I hear an explosion of talcom powder in my mind’s ear. I like the adjective poignant — a soft, bittersweet word, and all the more so for being juxtaposed with landmines. And that weedy mass of years. What an image! I think of being at the beach and getting my feet caught in seaweed. An apt icon for family history.

But here’s what amazes me most: She uses just 16 words! I’ve read 500-word articles with fewer images.

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