Scratch and Sniff – for writers?

Recently I was working on scene and felt there was something missing. I reread a few paragraphs and tried to decide what I needed to add. Still nothing came to mind. I closed my eyes and put myself into the setting as my character. Ah hah! What was that smell? That’s what I required. A strong pull from the olfactory organ was nagging at my senses: add me, add me!

Everything has a scent, and from the minute a character awakens, aromas accent their existence: coffee, bacon, cinnamon rolls, toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, fragrance, and whatever else s/he encounters. And that may be in the first few minutes of the day!

As I closed my eyes again another idea hit me. This character has a shaky past, so what if I use specific odors to trigger good memories, and others for bad memories. Isn’t that just like our lives? We can recall everything about an event at the slightest whiff of familiarity.

When I smell chocolate, well, I think candy; when I smell mint, I think candy – no, wait, I think of mint juleps da-hling. Let’s try this again, when I smell mint chocolate, I think of Girl Scout cookies! Are you with me? And does anyone smell peanut butter? Tagalongs!

Back to my point, scent is just as important in a setting as the other senses. Perhaps even more so if you want your reader to identify with him/her. When I was expecting my first child, I could not catch a whiff of coffee, ech, or fish, double ech! But the smell of french fries drenched in ketchup was my go-to food during my first trimester. No reason why, it just was.

So, when I write about a woman expecting a child, for all you forward thinking peeps: a pregnant gal, I think…hmmm, what would trigger her yuk button and what would she crave? And what about the effect this will have on others around her? And, on and on and on until scent becomes second nature to the story, as sound and sight.

Something I had apparently missed with this piece. Don’t be caught without a good dose of scratch and sniff in your character’s lives, your story depends on it and so do you! Mmmm, I believe that glass of cab is calling me right about now, blackberries, cassis, and vanilla with a hint of chocolate – yummm. Right next to the open bottle is a dozen long-stemmed roses which towers over a heart-shaped box of hazelnut truffles. Cheers to a happy day after Valentine’s Day!

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11 thoughts on “Scratch and Sniff – for writers?

  1. one of my sisters and I are making a list of scent triggers that we’d love to have made into perfumes or candles – freshly sawed wood, Grandpa’s pipe tobacco, Ohio rain, freshly mowed Ohio grass . . . not quite as delicious as yours 😉

    • that’s a great idea! oh yes, Kim, those scents are better, actually. That reminds me of some I should include in this story, outdoor fragrances. I can picture and smell all of those you mentioned – my memory speaks…I hope you and your sister enjoy meandering down memory lane! 🙂

  2. I love the way you give us insight in your writing process Roxie, thanks!

    Next time I’ll follow your example and close my eyes to FEEL the character in stead of only thinking ‘for’ her or him.

    And those smells are very tempting, yummie indeed 😀

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