Why Do Exercises?

This is about writing exercises. The question still stands, in reference to physical exercises: Like Mark Twain, I never could see the benefit of being tired.

Anyway, our #4 daughter (the fabulous Sara Deurell) and I love to do writing exercises, especially if we’re stuck in our writing. –BTW, this post also addresses the question of why I have the Shalimar Indian Restaurant listed in my blogroll as places that have published my work.

So one day, we were having a mini-retreat for just the two of us, and we started talking about how we seldom used the sense of smell in our writing. We were both pretty strong on visuals and on sounds, but not scents. So we decided to do an exercise in which aroma was key.

Mine ended up being about the smell of Indian food, specifically at the Shalimar. A man separated from his wife because of his infidelity associates the smell of the Shalimar’s food with his marriage because that’s where he and his wife had their first date and it was their favorite restaurant (it’s my favorite–can you tell?).

So I wrote the exercise and it turned out to be a flash fiction piece rather than just a couple of paragraphs.

I shaped it, polished it, printed it and had my husband frame it, and I gave it to the manager the next time I went to the Shalimar. What I expected was that he would say, “Oh, isn’t that nice,” take it home, show it to his wife, take it out of the frame and fold it up and use the frame for something else.

What happened was, he put it on the restaurant wall in the waiting area. He even gave me a free meal! It doesn’t matter what success I may ever achieve in my writing career, this is one of the two best payoffs ever!

I’ll tell you about the other one another time.

I’ll also start putting the writing prompt above my sign-off in case anyone has missed them because they get to the sign-off and stop reading.

WRITING PROMPT: Free-write for 15 minutes on the sense of smell or on a specific smell or set of smells.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Why Do Exercises?

  1. Stephen Tremp

    July 24, 2010 at 11:33am

    I use the five senses much in my books. They are somewhat of a secondary, inanimate character. Had a lot of fun especially using food to help define the characters. How food smells, looks, and tatstes and the characters response to food and beer is a common thread.

    Stephen Tremp

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  2. Patricia Stoltey

    July 24, 2010 at 6:20pm

    This kind of exercise makes a lot of sense. 🙂

    I saw the one man show “Defending the Caveman” last weekend, and he talked about how women have to touch everything when they’re shopping. He mimed the way we go through a rack of clothes, patting and stroking and testing the softness of the fabric. It was perfect. Putting that in writing would be excellent practice.

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  3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    June 20, 2016 at 3:32pm

    The sense of smell is the most primitive, and has a huge ability to get you in the gut.

    I love using it – our society is too sanitized!

    I have a problem with my husband cooking all kinds of things, though. My sense of smell does not saturate, so I can still smell your perfume – or his curry – many hours later, and it gives me a headache. Which reminds me, I should use that in Book 2 – the lack of saturation and the headache.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    Also, thanks for the Commentluv. You and Holly Jahangiri have it, and I will get it one of these days when I have some spare learning ability.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 20, 2016 at 4:03pm

      Commentluv is one of my favorite blog things! I get to follow the links back and read so many wonderful posts — like yours!

      That lack of scent saturation must be nightmarish. Sometimes the only way I can tolerate a smell is knowing I’ll eventually get used to it.

      I’ve spent my extra money for this month, but next month I’m going to buy your book in paper. Keep working on book 2!

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