Scents and Scenes

I am so excited! I finally fixed the darn spritzer on my favorite perfume! Dzing! Don’t ask me how to say it, but it smells so lovely. I got to put it on for the first time in months and it just made me happy. I love perfume, but I am no expert. Some people have such good noses that they can take a whiff of a scent and tell you all the “notes” they smell. Notes in perfume are descriptions of scents and they are separated into three classes: top/head notes, middle/heart notes, and base notes.

According to the description found at The Perfumed Court Dzing is:

“A fragrance inspired by the circus.  With notes that smell of saddle leather, sawdust from the ring, and the caramelized scent of candy (tonka beans, balsam, saffron and ginger).”

I am in the process of revising the second book in the Soulstealer Trilogy, Fae Guardian. Usually my first drafts focus a lot on the visuals. I see the characters moving through the scene in my head and I try to put what I see into words. But there are a lot more details to a scene then just the words people say to one another, the setting, and their actions.

When you see a movie you get to experience visual and the auditory. I think one of the reasons that books are always better than the movies that portray them are the other three senses we can describe in our scenes that cannot be translated as well on the silver screen: things you feel, taste, and smell.

I once took a class on how to compose your own perfumes. I sucked at it. However, I did walk away from the class with a small pamphlet on the terminology used in perfume, specifically the descriptions of the most common “notes” used in most perfumes.

Sometimes it is hard to insert smells into our scenes which don’t relate to food. I found this list of perfume notes to be very handy. It is also handy to look at the descriptions that you can find on websites such as The Perfumed Court. You can even browse perfumes by notes. Would you ever thought that some notes are considered “boozy”?

I would never have thought to describe the scent of Dzing as saddle leather and sawdust, but there it is, and now that I have read it described that way I smell it that way.

You don’t need to douse your reader with scents like an annoying perfume sprayer at a department store, but you can bring more richness to your scenes by inserting a few key notes that will linger in your reader’s minds even after they are onto the next chapter.

4 thoughts on “Scents and Scenes

  1. Scents and sounds, both very important and I often forget them while writing as well, but they’re really important not to forget while editing! Thanks for the link by the way, very handy to look through when lost for words to describe a particular smell.

    • Glad you find it helpful! I definitely think the place to start inserting elements like this are in revision. If you try and follow what all the writing books say in the first draft you may have a panic attack. 🙂

  2. Nicolette! I love this post! Last year, I wanted a perfume for day wear. I researched perfumes and their notes, because I didn’t want something too flowery or heavy. I enjoyed reading about perfumes, famous people who created perfumes, and how they chose their notes. But, you are right. Other than with food, or a quick reference to a cologne in my writing, I have almost completely omitted the sense of smell. My current work needs to be brought up in word count about 1500 words, and then I’ll start the first revision. Tonight, I wrote “SMELL” at the top of the page in my notebook. It will be fun to go through and look for ways to enhance my writing with odors/smell. I appreciate your thoughtful post!

    • Yay! I made the notebook (loved seeing your photo of your notes). That’s totally awesome. It’s funny how much scent triggers us in real life but we can tend to skip over it when we write. I know I always have to go and layer it in during revision.

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