How do you put the sensory detail of smell in writing? Let’s sniff out ideas.
Take a deep breath and imagine the smell of:
fish – cooked, or freshly caught
roast turkey right out of the oven
popcorn – movie popcorn with melted butter
How would you describe these smells to someone who cannot smell or who never smelled these particular scents?
What does a crunchy red apple smell like? Does a red apple smell the same as a green apple? Does an apple smell different if it’s crunchy or mushy? If it’s cold, it might have that earthy smell of a river. Or an apple might smell like a hot summer afternoon in an orchard. Can you put apple smell into words?
If you can, walk through an orchard or a field where the earth has recently been plowed. Inhale. Describe that earthy smell.
What does a river smell like?
Describe fresh cut lawn.
What about describing smells for other things? What does” old,” ancient” and “calm” smell like?
Here are some ideas:
old . . . smells like parchment paper
ancient . . . smells like musty book
calm . . . smells like summer rain candle
But what does parchment paper, musty book and rain candle smell like? Can you describe these smells?
How about adding sounds:
“old” sounds like coughing and wheezing
“ancient” sounds like rattling breath
“calm” sounds like church . . . sitting in church
The following is from The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury:
There was a smell of Time in the air tonight. . . What did Time smell like? Like dust and clocks and people. And if you wondered what Time sounded like, it sounded like water running in a dark cave and voices crying and dirt dropping down upon hollow box lids, and rain. Time looked like snow dropping silently into a black room or it looked like a silent film in an ancient theatre one hundred billion faces falling like those New Year balloons down and down into nothing. That was how Time smelled and looked and sounded.
A glorious line about smell: “The air took on its mossy evening smell.” — Elizabeth Sims, September 215 Writer’s Digest.
Your turn: How do you infuse smell in your writing? Tell us. We want to know.