Scents and Scents’ Abilities: Introducing Smells into Stories

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Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days is designed to shape a not-yet submitted, rejected, or self-published manuscript with low ratings into a book that shines. The method can also be a guiding resource for writers starting a manuscript. See details below.

Writers know how important it is that their characters use their five senses in stories. Today we’ll focus on scents and ways to use them.

Associate Certain Scents with Certain Abilities

Here are common associations between scents and a person’s well-being. In your stories, perhaps you could show your character reacting to scents in these ways.

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  • Fruit scents assist in calming anxiety. Lemon to increase clarity and apple for migraines. As Emily made lemonade from freshly squeezed lemons, Arthur drew in the citrus scent. His headache eased and a new idea struck him for the machine he’d invented.
  • Lavender’s fragrance is associated with easing emotional stress and insomnia. A lavender scent drifted through Brad’s open window. He ceased his tossing and his eyelids drooped. Oh, for blessed sleep …
  • Cinnamon is known for stimulating the brain, fighting mental fatigue, and increasing memory and attention span. Carly sifted cinnamon spice over each of ten pots containing simmering apples. Her nose filled with the cinnamon scent. As she stirred the cinnamon into the apple mixture, she recalled the complicated directions for Mother’s quilt pattern.
  • Peppermint is thought to stimulate the mind and increase concentration. Professor Eichmann passed peppermint candies to the students at the table. As the students sucked the candies, peppermint scent permeated the air, and the brainstorming session succeeded in solving the professor’s challenge. 
  • Jasmine is associated with boosting confidence and easing depression. Courtney persuaded Mother to sit in the garden near the Jasmine shrubs. “Mother, let’s breath in the lovely scents of the garden.” Mother obeyed. “Dearest, I love the scent of Jasmine. This is the most hopeful I’ve felt in days.”.

Fragrance Families

Spice up your stories with scents from different fragrance families:

  • Floral – flowers and bouquets
  • Chemical – ammonia and glass cleaners
  • Woody – pine and sandalwood
  • Fruity – citrus and apples
  • Exotic – ambergris and vanilla
  • Sweet – chocolate and caramel
  • Clean – soap and shampoo
  • Nutty – peanut butter and almond
  • Spices – nutmeg and cinnamon
  • Minty – peppermint and wintergreen
  • Strong – burning rubber and garlic breath
  • Decayed – roadkill and sour milk

Synonyms for Smells

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  • Odor
  • Scent
  • Fragrance
  • Smell
  • Aroma
  • Perfume
  • Bouquet
  • Stink
  • Stench
  • Whiff

How Scents Arrive

  • Cooking, baking, searing, frying, roasting
  • Burning, lighting up, bug zapping, heat radiation
  • Rotting, fermenting, souring
  • Digging, fertilizing, spraying
  • Sweating, breathing, festering
  • Bathing, grooming, powdering
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Verbs to Use with Smells

  • Wafted
  • Intruded
  • Floated
  • Hinted
  • Gave off
  • Blew
  • Hovered
  • Hung
  • Lifted
  • Drifted

Can you add to any of the above lists?

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Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

McCarthy crafted an amazing self-help book that will strengthen any writer, whether new or seasoned, with guidance and self-evaluation tools. —Erin Unger, author of Practicing Murder, releasing in 2019

Need to rework your book? Zoe M. McCarthy’s step-by-step reference guide leads you through the process, helping you fight feeling overwhelmed and wrangle your manuscript and into publishable shape in 30 days. Tailor Your Manuscript delivers a clear and comprehensive action plan. —Elizabeth Spann Craig, Twitteriffic owner, bestselling author of the Myrtle Clover Mysteries, the Southern Quilting Mysteries, and the Memphis Barbeque Mysteries

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  1. Kim Larson

    So helpful as always, Zoe! Thank you!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      You’re welcome, Kim. Loved the scent of your comment.

  2. Patti Shene

    Wow, Zoe, I always enjoy your posts, but this one was exceptionally helpful. Senses and scents can be difficult to describe sometimes, but these options are great! Thank you for sharing.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      You’re welcome, Patti. I’m in the midst of editing so tantalizing my characters’ senses was on my mind.

  3. Marcia

    Thank you for this blog. I hope you are going to do a blog on ‘taste’ too. I find it hard to fit taste into a scene.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Taste is a toughy. I’ve read that some writers consider, “She could taste the victory,” is a form of taste.

  4. Sally Jo Pitts

    A very helpful post. Well done!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Thanks, Sally. I printed it off for myself!

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