Five Senses: Smell

Readers want to be able to experience your writing in as vivid detail as they possibly can. They need to feel as though they are involved in your writing. This can be achieved in a number of ways; a good way to pull your readers into the world you want to create is by using the five senses.

So far, we have discussed how to enhance our descriptions of the visual – sight – and the audio – sound, or hearing. These can help us to create a more intense piece of writing and are probably the two most common of the five senses that you will find yourself reading and writing. Today, we are going to think about a less commonly used sense: smell.

Selecting a powerful or important smell can create an emotional response in your readers. This is similar to how you can use sound to shape the atmosphere you want within your writing. Foul smells will make your readers think of dark, nasty place, where sinister people lurk; pleasant smells might remind them of a happy memory that will give them a positive outlook for your piece. You could lure them into a false sense of security if you wish – our ability to associate certain smells with certain feelings can always be used against us!

Smell can also be used in simpler ways. You could use a smell as a specific plot point or focus your entire piece around a particular smell and what it means to you. Can your readers guess the smell that you are referring to?

If you do not feel the need to be metaphorical or elusive, then there is no problem with simply naming the smell; this is not something that you necessarily need to go into a great deal of detail over. If the cake is supposed to have burned, then you can say that the kitchen is full of the smell of burning cake. Go into more detail if you wish. Your biggest problem will be when you attempt to describe a smell without specifically naming it. That is when you may need to use the other senses, similar smells, and clever references to make people think of the smell.

This is a fun sense to play around with, but it can often be difficult to use. Each smell can mean something different to each of your readers, so you will be able to create lots of different responses to your writing. This can be a good thing. But describing a smell can also be complicated for a writer – it is something that many of us need to practice.

This month’s theme is THE FIVE SENSES. If you have written something that you would like me to share on this blog on the theme of the five senses, then please post a link in the comments or email me on with the subject: Five Senses.


5 thoughts on “Five Senses: Smell

  1. It is a very important topic you have raised.
    I feel you could have elaborated on the subject a little more as to use the sense in writing.
    It should have justified the post.
    Its my frank opinion, even now you can work on that and repost it.
    I would read it with all interest.
    Kudos to you.


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