Describing Home. Do you Hear it or Smell it?

The dog is digging a hole in the sand. After chasing and fetching her ball numerous times, she has decided to bury it. It’s a game of make it disappear and find it again, a game she can play all by herself while I sit and listen to the waves slapping against the shore. I love this sound. It doesn’t matter where I am, if I’m near water coastline I’ll find a beach. The sounds of water soothe me. And I’m not alone in craving water sounds. A babbling brook, the torrent of a waterfall, the crash of ocean waves: are sounds that both inspire and invigorate.

Of the five senses—sight, smell, touch, sound, taste— one of the five will often be more prominently experienced than the other four. And this can change, depending on the situation. I find, when I tap into my memory bank, that sound is most frequently my touchstone. I think of a scene and I hear it. The rise and fall of the voices, crickets chirping, the sputter of an outboard motor, heavy breathing.

A classic writing exercise is to describe the place you call home.  If you are truly honest with yourself, the exercise will force you to select the place you long for, if you’re not already living there.  In order to describe it, you’ll be choosing the details that pop out in your mind.  The exercise provides a short cut, so to speak, to grasp what you value most.

Fiction writers, you can use this prompt to channel you directly into the characters you create. Where do they feel most secure? It can tell you a lot about a person.

For me, home is the beach. It’s a happy place where I can walk for miles, build sand castles, swim in the waves and float on my back with the sun in my face. During childhood it was the Provincetown beach at the end of Kendall Lane. Today it is Cornhill beach in Truro a few miles away. The first glimpse of water and sand, the sound of the waves pushing into the shore, the smells of salt and seaweed, the wind against my face; I am home. From both beaches, if I look eastward I see the very tip of the Cape Cod peninsula curving around, creating a sheltered harbor. Out across the bay is Long Point Light Station.

When following a writing prompt or exercise, allow your thoughts to freely flow. Do not self-censor while writing. Once, you’re finished you can cut words, sentences or entire paragraphs. But if you analyze every word you select, you won’t get very far.

The subsequent step after spending twenty to thirty minutes writing a description of “home” is to read what you’ve written and look for patterns. Does one sense, such as smell, dominate the prose. Are there duplications of the same idea that cloud the focus? Challenge yourself to deepen the scene by adding action or dialogue.

Whenever I’m “stuck” and looking for a fresh something to write about. I challenge myself by creating a prompt or borrowing a prompt idea from another writer. The ideas are out there, you just need to make the time and have fun with what you create.

Follow me on twitter at SN Maril. And read some of my creative work by accessing the landing page of my website at

Published by Nadja Maril

Nadja Maril is a communications professional who has over 10 years experience as a magazine editor. A writer and journalist, Maril is the author of several books including: "American Lighting 1840-1940", "Antique Lamp Buyer's Guide", "Me, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat", and "Runaway, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat". Her short stories and essays have been published in several small online journals including Lunch Ticket, Change Seven, Scarlet Leaf Review and Defunkt Magazine. She has an MFA in creative writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. Former Editor-in-Chief of What's Up ? Publishing, former Editor of Chesapeake Taste Magazine a regional lifestyle magazine based in Annapolis, and former Lighting Editor of Victorian Homes Magazine, Maril has written hundreds of newspaper and magazines articles on a variety of subjects..

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