~ The Olfactory Sense: Using Our Nose ~
Smell is one of the most powerful of our senses. Smell forms and solidifies memories and evokes the emotions. A familiar odor can bring back an image or event from the past. Smells influence the choices we make and can change our mood and our behavior.
Real estate agents know to scent houses on the market with baking smells and soft florals. A night club experiment showed that adding a pleasant scent to the air made patrons dance more and say they had a better time than when there were no scents added. Another study showed that people can sense fear in someone’s sweat.
If scents and odors can do this to us, they must certainly do the same things to the characters in our books. Even more importantly, evoking the sense of smell in our reader will make our story more memorable, more emotional, and more realistic.
When to Add Smells
Smell is so important that most scenes should mention a smell at least once and is especially powerful in the starting paragraph or as near to it as possible. Here are some other places to insert a olfactory note.
Add in a smell/scent/aroma/reek:
- Whenever a character enters a new location, room, building or revisits one – describe the initial smell and then how it changed
- When the POV (point of view) character meets a new or important person
- When outside in nature or a garden
- When sensing danger – the release of adrenaline intensifies one’s sense of smell.
- During romantic moments
Some Smelly Examples
Here are some examples of olfactory description from my upcoming romantic suspense release Close to the Skin Book 2 in the Skin Quartet.
Bella stuck the bag over her mouth and nose and gasped in ham-and-mustard scented air like a drowning victim pulled out of the depths.
The narrow corridor was dank and dark, most of the overhead lights smashed out, the air stinking of decaying garbage and decaying lives.
She pulled the door open, and the sickly sweet odor of something rotten hit her full in the face.
A whiff of stone cold damp and death brushed past her from the shadowed interior.
Smell Resources for Writers
Lists of Fragrances
http://theperfumedcourt.com/fragrance_families.aspx perfume chemistry