Writing Tips

How to use your Character’s Sense of Smell to your Advantage

HtuyCSoStyAYour character’s senses are a powerful thing. They’re probably more powerful than you think: if your character doesn’t have her senses, there’d hardly be a story at all.

There are five “main senses,” which are:

  • Sight
  • Hearing
  • Smell
  • Touch
  • Taste

Eventually we’ll go over on the other four, but for now we’re going to focus on sense of smell. This post shouldn’t be long, because the real key to using sense of smell is easy.

Pick a smell your reader will recognize.

In other words, something most people have smelled in their lives. Examples: copper (like pennies and other coins), milk, wet pavement, gas station bathrooms, I could go on forever.

Why is it important?

If your reader recognizes something, he connects with it. If the given smell is at all familiar to him, he will connect to that particular scene, which also applies to taste and hearing. (And most other things in writing, but that’s a story for another day.) See, isn’t this easy?
(Tip: if you recognize the scent, your reader probably will too. Just don’t pick anything overly complicated (i.e. “The air smelled like fresh pastries on a warm summer day. . . .”).)

In addition, it’s important that the scent you use to describe something fits around a theme. If you’re describing something scary, your chosen smell should be scary. If you’re describing something romantic or pretty, you should use a scent that goes with that theme. You get the idea.

I won’t bore you with useless information, because I think I’ve made my point. A lot of the information in this post also applies to the other senses, so I wouldn’t shy away from experimenting with that. Feel free to comment below with any questions or suggestions! 🙂