Readers read novels for an emotional experience. Something writers must never forget. One of the best tools for arousing emotion in a reader is the use of scent in a setting.
Nothing quite stirs us as much as:
- and so on.
So many evocative terms for taking the setting in through our olfactory system, our sense of smell and letting it set up a visual image in our reader’s brain. I won’t bother with the science, we all know how a fragrance can wing us back to our early childhood, stir memories long forgotten.
During the edits of one of my British Raj novels, my editor suggested I vary the words for “smell”. With that suggestion a whole new world opened up to me in regards to setting. I believe it’s one of the reasons that series Twilight of the British Raj is so well received.
Here are some samples of my favorite scenes that use scent to set the setting.
Excerpt from Shadowed in Silk
The New Delhi sliced her way through the narrows of Kolaba Point, and the familiar scent of Bombay reached out to Abby. Laine was right. No sense worrying. Tucking a strand of hair into her chignon, she savored a tantalizing whiff of overripe fruit, roses, marigolds and cloves, mingled with the acrid smell of dust.
Scent can also be portrayed in a setting as intimate as a man’s arms. As in this excerpt from Veiled at Midnight.
“She breathed in the clean scent of his cotton shirt as the sun set.”
One of my favorite quotes in Captured by Moonlight uses scent as a symbol for Christian character, and it was coined by an Indian Christian by the name of Sundar Singh who said,
“A true Christian is like sandalwood, which imparts its fragrance to the axe which cuts it, without doing any harm in return.”
Add a whole new set of paints to your writing toolbox by opening up the box of scent.