PDA

View Full Version : Writing about smoking



Some Lonely Scorpio
06-04-2018, 06:53 AM
My current novel is set in World War II, so of course everyone smokes. My MC, though, is an especially heavy smoker. So I want the descriptions to be accurate. What does smoking feel like, the right way to hold a cigarette, things like that. Even some general sensory details would be great too. I've already done a bit of research into this, but I wanted to go to you guys for advice as well. ;)

Cindyt
06-04-2018, 07:09 AM
I always held mine between index and third finger, but some guys hold theirs by the tips of thumb and index.

Some cigarettes--for me Benson & Hedges lights--will cause indigestion.

They will settle your nerves and destroy your lungs. :D

Depending on your age and smoking history, heavy smokers have a hacking cough. It takes a month after you quit for the cough to clear up.

I enjoyed the first one in the morning, after meals, and before I retire, and in between. I was what they called a chain-smoker.

Now I want a ciggy (after 8 years on the wagon.) Lol.

DarienW
06-04-2018, 07:31 AM
My current novel is set in World War II, so of course everyone smokes. My MC, though, is an especially heavy smoker. So I want the descriptions to be accurate. What does smoking feel like, the right way to hold a cigarette, things like that. Even some general sensory details would be great too. I've already done a bit of research into this, but I wanted to go to you guys for advice as well. ;)

I've got smoking characters in my stories, and I find it hard to come up with fresh ways to say: he exhaled, or he drew a deep hit, etc.

I think less is more. Lighting cigarettes is the worst, as i end up saying: He lit us up, just to cut to the chase and not waste words on flicking lighters or striking matches. Again, a heavy smoker will make it harder. Just go with your gut and work on it in revisions. Getting hung up on the fresh ways to say lit, inhaled, exhaled can bog down a first draft. It's easier to stylize and freshen when you can do an edit and focus on just that. One tip is you can have him once, and early in the story, light a new cigarette from the one he just finished, the true example of chain smoking. :)

Smoking can be a distraction, and sometimes soothing or stress relieving. Sometimes it's a force of habit and can be a neurotic release. I've seen vapers suck on that thing like it's a baby bottle, so if you can add the characteristic of why he's smoking, that could help.

Hope anything helps. If you want some inspiration, watch some folks in a smoking section of a bar, where they are loose and feeling relaxed.

Best of luck with your story!

Some Lonely Scorpio
06-04-2018, 07:40 AM
Darien: Your comments were really helpful, I appreciate them! And I totally agree. There are only so many ways to say 'He/she lit a cigarette' so I won't get hung up on that. As it is, giving a character quirks and habits like this makes them seem more real; hence my decision to make the MC a heavy smoker.

Bufty
06-04-2018, 03:25 PM
I presume you're not really 'writing about smoking'. :Hug2:

If you want a 'real' heavy smoker, you are going to have to think about the permanent smell of tobacco on his clothes, his breath, his moustache.

To a non-smoker these can be extremely annoying and off-putting. In a car, in a lift, in a house or flat, hotel rooms, buses, trains, restaurants, in theatres, pubs, cinemas...

It was pretty grim, even though 'accepted' at the time. But not everybody chain-smoked.

Being a heavy smoker would have an impact on his behaviour and on those around him.

He'd always be looking for an excuse to wander off, to light up. His fingers would be nicotine stained, depending how he held his cigarette, or his hand. If the smoke is going vertically from the cigarette he may avoid the nicotine stained fingers, but if he smokes right down to the filter or to within burning distance of his fingers, and lights the next one off the stub...

I knew someone who had burn holes in their vest through lighting up before getting dressed. Yes- it's the first thing a heavy smoker does in the morning, and usually the last thing at night, too.

No idea what your story is about, but have you considered making the MC the non-smoker? Or at least just an occasional 'puffer' instead of a 'heavy'?

You'll know what fits your story best so I wish you well whatever course you follow.

Good luck.

blacbird
06-04-2018, 09:35 PM
This is one of those things that really only needs to be emphasized once, early in the story. Once established, you can refer briefly to his smoking, need to get a cigarette, clothing odor, coughing, etc. as useful from time to time. But don't overdo it.

caw

Lil
06-05-2018, 06:52 PM
You might remember that when practically everyone smoked everywhere, including doctors and patients in hospitals, no one would notice the smell. And there was virtually no place where smoking was forbidden, so nobody had to go outside to have a cigarette.

Alsikepike
06-05-2018, 08:51 PM
Maybe the best way to emphasize your characterís personís smoking habits could be to illustrate what happens when they go through withdrawal?
Often you donít know how addicted a person really is until you see what happens when they donít have cigarettes. Smokers trying to quit often like to have something in their mouth to distract them and suppress their cravings. Iíve seen people eating sunflower seeds, using toothpicks, biting nails, chewing gum, etc.
And then there are the nervous tics that come with the withdrawal, like foot tapping, picking at skin, patting legs, cracking knuckles, stuff like that. Thereís also increased appetite, irritability, headaches, fatigue, and lack of focus, sudden cravings, you get the idea. All of these things could be used to emphasize how badly your character needs cigarettes to get through his everyday life, especially if you show that your character is experienced in dealing with the symptoms of withdrawal on the short term. Like keeping an emergency stash of snacks if he doesnít have access to cigarettes for one reason or another.

Hopefully that helps! Good luck!

Al X.
06-05-2018, 09:06 PM
You might remember that when practically everyone smoked everywhere, including doctors and patients in hospitals, no one would notice the smell. And there was virtually no place where smoking was forbidden, so nobody had to go outside to have a cigarette.

It is worth noting though that in many places, that was sufficiently long ago that much of the younger readership (as in under 40) may not have those memories.

I was never much of a smoker but I did smoke when I was in the military. Often times, the pack of Dunhills sitting in your BDU jacket was the closest thing you could get to civilized pleasure while you were curled up beneath your poncho late night in the freezing rain. I "quit" when I left the military, although I had occasional cravings afterwards, particularly when drinking. Even as a former light smoker, I can't wrap my head around chain smoking. I smoked maybe two packs a week at my heaviest smoking period.

I would concur with blacbird that isn't necessary to hammer out the visualization of smoking in agonizing detail. The only exception I might make is if it was some sort of central, pivotal identifying characteristic of a character. I usually just have a character light a cigarette, or perhaps drop it from their mouth out of surprise.

WeaselFire
06-06-2018, 02:28 AM
As a secondary reference beyond just the act and effects, take a look at the various options for cigarettes, as well as cigars, pipes, etc. available. Soldiers got smokes ion their rations, and pretty much smoked whatever they could get. Not everyone smoked and those that didn't could trade the cigarettes for just about anything. Soldiers also "confiscated" cigarettes from prisoners or dead soldiers, and you could find just about any brand on a battlefield somewhere.

Civilians may or may not have had easy access to cigarettes, depending on who and where they were. My mom used to get cigarettes from GIs at USO functions (she was a "junior hostess") and trade them to other teachers in the school she taught at for things she had trouble getting. I think the soldiers got them free at the USO but for some reason she couldn't. They all gave her packs when she would dance with them and she wasn't allowed to smoke them with the soldiers (didn't smoke anyway).

Jeff

DarbyC
06-20-2018, 06:24 PM
One thing you could mention is the immediate effect on him. If he takes out a cigarette following a stressful incident, etc. Read up on 'nicotine buzz'. I can tell you, it's a real thing. The first couple of inhalations of the cigarette can cause an almost immediate response; calming, feeling of relaxation, euphoria.

A lover who is a non-smoker may notice the lingering smell of the cigarette on his fingers. It's not pleasant, it's a real turn off.