Sniff the Roses
by Alina Chase
We readers always seem to know what characters are wearing, but how often do we know what they smell like? Scent is so neglected, especially as it relates to humans, you’d think it was taboo.
Scents (or aromas or stenches) are always present. They evoke memories like no other sense can. Faint or strong, pleasant or not, smells associated with experiences make powerful and lasting impressions.
Does Jordan’s apartment smell like cookies, disinfectant or dirty socks? Does the park smell like your grandmother’s roses, sunbaked earth or ripening dog poop?
And don’t you know without checking for evidence in the trash can that your co-worker ate a fast food burger and fries for lunch–if not from the salty, greasy smell hovering in the office, then from her breath? (Perhaps not, if her noontime dose of musky perfume knocks you out first.)
Begin paying attention to all aromas you encounter, and especially to the memories and emotions they evoke. And keep in mind how life experiences shape our gut responses. The sweet scent of gardenias reminds one of romance, another of funerals. The earthy smell of horses may be nostalgic or nauseating. Cologne may be enticing or asphyxiating. Might scent not be more than an interesting detail, but also a subtle source of attraction or conflict?
So before your next writing session, take a deep breath. Imagine how easily you can create more vivid and memorable experiences for your readers by infusing scenes with what things and places–and characters–smell like.