Perfume Is Good For Your Self-Esteem

Perfume Is Good For Your Self-Esteem.

 

Well, I thought I knew this already. Turns out although I knew it in my head, my self-esteem didn’t have a clue.

It’s been a while since I had the money to treat myself to some perfume and I have been scraping the bottoms of old bottles, but this week I finally had a little spare cash and bought a new one! It’s a small bottle, but was reduced by 20% which made it all the more attractive. I had tried it on several previous occasions and had liked it. (My one trick when I have no perfume is to head straight to a store and spray myself liberally; that way I smell good for free!)

This afternoon I was outside with my youngest, blowing bubbles for him to burst. Every so often I would catch a subtle, lovely scent and think, ‘What’s that? That smells nice…’ and then remember – it’s me:D

To know that I smelt good did something tangible for my self-esteem. For the first time in a long time I felt worthwhile, as though I had a place here on earth. All too often my self-esteem has been so low that I have even wanted to apologise for my existence. Feeling good about myself this afternoon, due to a perfume, came as a wonderful surprise. I felt more whole than I had done in a long time, as though a small essence of myself had been recaptured and put into a bottle for me to spray back.

I am not the first to discover this link between smell and how we feel. Psychology Today has an article about The Hidden Force of Fragrance. Rachel Herz – a world-renowned expert on the psychology of smell – says: “A smell reminder can really conjure the person, more than just looking at a photo,” she says. “You actually get the feeling of the person from the smell.” She has written (amongst others) a book: The Scent of Desire, in which she talks about how important the sense of smell is to our mental health and well-being. This book is going on my wish list.

Maybe, just maybe, when I spray this perfume I can feel myself through the smell. I conjure myself. I am, in that fleeting moment, a whole person once more.

 

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How Important Are Emotions When Driving A Character?

How important are emotions in driving a character?

(This is something I also posted on the Happy Authors Guild blog. Check it out, there are lots of fabulous posts from many different writers)
I’ve been mulling this over this past week and had a few thoughts. Feel free to disagree, this is just what was going through my head:)
There are many driving forces behind a character’s behaviour. Needs. Wants. Desires. Revenge. Behind these, either tagging along like cans tied to a newlyweds car or compressing a person until they feel like they will explode, are emotions.

The first three (needs, wants, desires) are often stepping stones into the depth of emotion a person will attach to one of these. For example, the desire to share your life with someone can morph into a want, which then changes to a need. The initial desire comes with the feeling that it would be nice, pleasant, normal. If the desire goes unfulfilled, then the emotions deepen. If the ‘want’ goes unfulfilled, emotions go deeper, and often start to deceive us. A character can think, ‘Why am I the only one not married? Why am I the only one struggling financially?’ It’s easy to slip into thoughts that slowly lead down into a maelstrom of self-pity, anger, depression and fear. (At this point, can I just clarify that not everyone is like this, but it can help to see where a character can go emotionally due to an unfulfilled need.)

Need is often associated with desperation and fear. If I don’t have shelter I may die of cold. If I don’t have enough to eat I will starve. If I don’t find someone to love me I will stay alone. Suffer alone. Age alone. Die alone. If a person cannot meet their own needs, then helplessness, hopelessness and depression can follow.

Want (when not a ‘need’) can be associated with selfishness and inconsideration of others, an assumption that others don’t matter. Some people want to be rich, and will do anything to achieve that – even if it means stamping others down.

Desires can take many forms. In romance novels, sexual desires can often be the main driving force (at first) behind a character. In a thriller, the detective will have the desire to catch a thief or a murderer. When this desire is unfulfilled, then it becomes a want, a need. The passion behind increases, the driving force impels the character to perhaps take more risks.

So emotions drive us in many ways.

Consider yourself. When you wake up in the morning how do you feel? Tired? Buzzing? Still upset at something someone said yesterday? Still slightly drunk???

I know when I wake up tired it colours my whole day a darker shade of whatever hue I feel. Our emotions and reactions colour the way we think and act, likewise with our characters. If some trauma happened when a character was young, that will affect almost everything about them. Even if they shut it out, the fact that they have shut down a part of them means a part of them is missing, regardless how broken up that part is. When does a character learn fear? Love? Consequences of various actions?

In the current medieval novel I am working on, I have a sixteen year old girl who had a traumatic experience when she was about 9. She has shut this out, yet occasionally has nightmares. I have struggled with her character because it isn’t rounded. Part of her is hidden from me, and until she comes to terms with what happened and is willing to remember, it will stay hidden. She has fears, and anxieties which come from this hidden place and these affect her, yet her emotions are dampened because she pushes them down. So it has been difficult to write from her pov, and the novel has turned into one more about her mother while Annie remembers. When she has remembered, she will be much rounder; I will be better able to write her because I know where she is coming from.

Do you know what your characters are feeling in every scene? Do you ‘soul-hop’? I find if I know what a character is feeling, then the dialogue and actions flow easily and naturally. If I don’t know, then everything feels stilted and awkward.

Experiences affect characters differently. One might shrug off an insult, another might take a swing. Another might bear a grudge and nurse it until the tree of bitterness bears the fruit of hatred. Yet all will then adjust their behaviour accordingly. The one who shrugs the insult off may well avoid that person. The one who takes a swing might end up in jail; the one who nurses a grudge may end up sinking into paranoia. A seemingly insignificant detail can end up having pond-wide ripples, which is why, for me, it’s so important knowing how they feel. If I can identify with my own characters, then I have the hope readers will, too.

 

What do you think? How important are emotions in driving your characters? What do your characters first desire, then want, then need? Is the carrot that is being dangled before them always out of reach, or can they take a bite every now and then, thus increasing the fervency with which they seek more?

 

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Connecting With Souls

Connecting With Souls

When was the last time you connected with somebody? I don’t mean by email or telephone, I mean looked into their eyes and connected on a much deeper level. I’m not talking about sexual intimacy either. I’m talking about friends. People whom you can connect with on a level that means conversation with them soars and dips and swoops like a flight of swallows. A conversation that to another person may sound stilted and broken, yet to those who connect, their very lifeblood is stirred. It is simply that so many words are not needed. Communication from one person’s soul to another means that not even language is a barrier.

When I met my friend Marianna, she spoke no English and I no Italian, yet we got on very well from the outset. How? We connected on a deeper level. We recognized something kindred in each other. In L.M. Montgomery’s ‘Anne of Green Gables’, Anne always goes on about kindred spirits. When you find someone you can converse like that with, you feel alive, on the edge of something incredible, something strangely intimate. I have another friend who is from South Korea. We both live in the same village in Switzerland and struggle to connect with other Swiss women here. We pass the time of day with them but nothing deeper, but she and I connect. Although her mother tongue is Korean and she speaks French at home, she also speaks good English because she is a musician for Zurich Chamber Orchestra. We have a love of music in common, and a general bafflement about some aspects of Swiss culture, but there is a lot more besides that we haven’t begun to explore.

I think we, as people, continually seek such connections. We need them. It reaffirms our own aliveness, for want of a better word. Yet, in this day of mobile devices, we seek more and more of these connections online. Why? We are multi-faceted people. We crave intimacy on many levels, different aspects – facets of our personality, our very beings. Why when we crave intimacy in all these ways, do we isolate ourselves more?
We all have different interests, likes, opinions. Sometimes we can share only one aspect of ourselves with someone, sometimes many more. I think this is why some search continually for the ‘one’. Someone they can share most of themselves with, open up and reveal their multi-faceted personalities and characters knowing this other person will understand, will ‘get’ them.

I spend a lot of time on Scribophile, a website for writers. Since moving to Switzerland this has been a Godsend because I can talk to like-minded people here. Yet, for all the communication I do, and connections I think I make, how much do I actually know these people? Perhaps we prefer to keep our connections on a one-faceted basis because that means if the other facets of those people do not suit us, we can leave it. It doesn’t matter. In retreating more and more to these one dimensional relationships, are we damaging our cultures by refusing to accept those parts of others we would normally tolerate? Are we restricting our search for a partner just a little too much? ‘I like this part of you, but not this part.’

Maybe one day we will all live in separate houses, have many one-faceted relationships within reach of our fingertips so we can glean what we need from any one of them at any time. Think of ‘friends with benefits’. At what point does the importance of what that one person can do for us outweigh the importance of the friendship? Do these online relationships make us more selfish? So many sites out there are about self-promotion. It’s not so much what we can do for others, but what they can do for us. I’m not saying everyone is like this, but could it be a general trend?
When was the last time you connected, met someone’s eyes and saw their soul? Or are we afraid of what they might see in ours?

 

Louise

 

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