I walked outside last night and knew immediately rain was imminent.
It was that smell in the air. You know the one. The smell of dirt and decaying grass and dampness and wood.
As an adult, it’s the smell that tells you whether the dinner you’re grilling will be able to finish. As a kid, it’s the smell that tells you you’re time outside is about done.
When someone says “Smells like rain is coming.” you know exactly what that means. That smell immediately enters your nose and you remember some time in the recent or distant past that’s tied to it.
Writers are often told to find the best, most elegant word to convey a sense, emotion or visual.
The word for what’s described above is “petrichor,” one that was created in 1964 by two scientists who combined two Greek words, one for “stone” and one that describes the blood of the gods.
It’s a good word that will certainly earn you the respect of those who understand it and appreciate its proper usage.
But it’s not the best word. It does nothing to stir the imagination. It does nothing to create a connection with the reader or audience. There’s no heart or soul in it.
That’s not uncommon with scientific words and terms. They are meant to be descriptive, not poetic.
Don’t worry about finding the best word. Instead, find the best way to light a fire. Establish the setting and paint a picture, don’t just describe.