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The nose, knows – or does it?

23 Oct

I have always had a lousy sense of smell, and no, before you ask, I’ve never smoked cigarettes in my life.

I’m not one of those people who scent something, and are plunged back into another time or day, or memory of a loved one, or a place. Music does that to me. Music puts me right back to what I was doing the first time I heard, say, ‘Royals’ by Lourdes (current favourite). I was driving home from Mandurah after a lovely lunch with blogger/reviewer extraordinaire Monique Mulligan, coming home from the Romance Writers Australia conference in Fremantle this year.

Madonna’s Express Yourself, and Black Box Ride On Time, and the Lambada, are songs that all remind me of a certain nightclub in Crete, and a certain Queensland cane cutter who could move like Jagger on the dance floor.

I love trying to describe scents and smells in my writing, and I always notice how other authors describe them, and whether I think those descriptions are done well. I mean, aren’t there only so many ways to describe the scent of a beach? And how about all those romance heroes who  smell of ‘clean, warm, male’…?

Wine helps a lot. No! Not drinking wine as I come up with whackier and whackier ways to describe how my hero smells! 😉 Seriously, wine labels are wonderful founts for description of texture, colour and scent. My love of gardening and nature helps too. But how many people know what I mean if I try to describe my heroine’s skin as ‘pale cream, tinged with pink, like a White Wedding fuschia?’

I found this article in The Weekend Australian magazine:

Opulent, muscular, reminiscent of cigar boxes: sommeliers are famously loquacious when describing the nose of a good vintage. But now scientists claim all smells can be broken down into 10 basic scents and described precisely as percentage scores of each of eight categories (fragrant, woody, fruity, chemical, minty, sweet, popcorn, lemon) and two kinds of “sickening” odours (pungent and decayed).

Neuroscientist Jason Castro of Bates College in Maine, who led the study, says until now it has been an open question how many fundamental types of scent there are. It’s not clear how the results, published in the journal Plos One, relate to the workings of the nose, which contains 1000-plus chemical-sensor neurons; a unique pattern of neuronal firing is then translated by the brain into a smell.

It doesn’t help much, does it. I can hardly start describing my hero’s aftershave as 80% woodsy, 18% chemical, with 2% fruity now, can I?

I’ve been working on my golf romance, Fairway To Heaven. Here’s a little taste of how my hero smells.

I rise on tiptoes so I can put a hand against his incredible face. His whiskers brush my palm—silky smooth—not quite a beard, too long to prickle.

My breasts press his shirt, all the muscles of his chest beneath the fabric, hard and ripped. He smells of summer and salt, and as I shape my lips to his, that’s how he tastes. There’s a millisecond there where I think I smell tequila.

The Golf Pro clears his throat again, then studies his computer screen. “What can I say? Those clubs are perfect for you. I wouldn’t recommend we modify a thing.”

Brayden lifts his head from mine: “This guy has worse timing than me.”

It’s eight years since I felt those lips on mine and I don’t want to stop now. I could kiss him forever.

How important is the sense of smell to you? Do you notice description of scents in the books you’re reading, or writing? Are you one of those people who can sniff a rose and discern the components of a perfume factory? Or are you like me, lucky if you can make out ‘floral’ or ‘bouquet’ or ‘peaches’?

If there’s a description of scent in the book you’re reading now that you think works – I’d love if you’d share it in the comments.

Happy sniffing!

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3 Comments

Posted by on October 23, 2013 in Excerpts, Uncategorized, Writing Craft

 

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3 responses to “The nose, knows – or does it?

  1. Jenn J McLeod | House for all Seasons

    October 23, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    Oh, speaking of senses, you are going to love my gal in Book three. but you’ll have to wait until 2015 to find out why!!!!!! This is a great post, Liky. Am sharing.

     
  2. Iris B

    October 23, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    My sense of smell is good, sometimes too good, probably to compensate for the lack of eyesight 😉 LOL, but describing it? Not my thing either.
    And … I’ve got to admit …. I skip the paragraph with the description of a scent, it doesn’t mean anything to me. You tell me he was blond, dark hair, muscular, brilliant physique, that’s when my senses are “all ears” 😉
    Great post, Lily …. interesting topic!

     
  3. Cate Ellink

    October 24, 2013 at 12:50 am

    I’m not very good with smells either — and often a smell I love, other people won’t. I like the gardening and nature things and I can totally see her skin if you describe it like that!

    I often can’t understand the heroes who smell all mixed scents. I can get woodsy, or salty, or male. But some guys have a bunch of smells and sometimes my head whirls thinking about them altogether. I like a sweaty man smell – not the smelly sock one but a normal working smell. I think that smells honest…yet I know others hate that smell. I think it’s easier to stick to smelling the air and not people!!

    Thanks for an interesting post, Lily.

    Cate xo

     

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