Saturday, 1 December 2007


I'm definitely a kinaesthetic writer. That's to say that, as another long and arduous editing session comes to an end, I find that I have a prediliction for descriptions of how my pov characters are feeling. They are cold or warm, or their nerves tingle, or their foot aches, or their eyes smart, etc.
So I've spent a little time googling for smells.

Here's a list of favourite smells. I've chosen this above many others because it contains all of the most popular smells that arose during my research. (I've italicised the most commonly cited faves.)

baking bread
blackberries cooking
blokes after they've been pumping iron
bonfire of leaves
clean laundry fresh from the washing line
cut grass
damask rose
earth after spring rain
fried onions
gorse on a hot Spring day
men's armpits (in China)
moss roses
new cars interior (leather upholstery)
newly hewn wood
newly mown hay
pineapple weed
rain on dust
spruce needles at Christmas
tarmac freshly laid
wax candles

Here's an exciting experiment:
Take any one scene that you have written, and insert one of the above smells.
Read it back and notice how the mood is affected.
Then repeat, inserting a different smell and observe the change.

Other popular smells include:

roasted/barbecued meat (and charcoal)
strong cheese
vinegar (red, cider, and white)

According to Eric Scheid:
'... Smells cause a greater visceral reaction, reaching deeper into the greymatter than sight or sound. Both sight and sound are so overloaded that we have evolved the ability to tune out a lot of noise and clutter. Its easier to provoke a response with a smell, assuming the scent is communicated.'

Here are some more cool lists:
World smells
Celestial Scentsations

Anyone have any favourite smells?
How about a list of unpleasant smells?

1 comment:

esruel said...

It can be seen, therefore, that the use of smell can produce a dramatic effect if used sparingly i.e. in the most effective place. Smells are all around us and can warn, as well inform. I wonder if the absolute cacophony (?) of artificial and conflicting smells have made it dangerous for us to rely too heavily on smell as an information filter - hence the greater reliance on sight and sound.
I think the writer's subjective sense will help with originality of choice, too, but the choice will need to be looked at carefully afterwards - we don't want to turn off the reader unnecessarily.
The one that came immediately to mind was split pea soup with dumplings! My mother seemed to know exactly when she should make it (the coldest winter day), and the aroma as you opened the front door was incredible. Might just have a go at making it myself!
Nice one, solvey. :-)