Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Let's Create a Smell Thesaurus!

Have you ever sat down to write and the words are flowing nicely, the story coming alive before your eyes, and then you get stuck searching for a way to describe a smell? I do this all the time. I think most people know what fall sounds like, the crunching of dried leaves under feet or blowing on the wind. We know what it smells like too, but how do you put it in words? That earthy smell of dried leaves?

I'm enlisting your help. Let's start by creating a list of smells we would like to find words for to describe this sense that often gets left out of our writing.Then I'll take volunteers (and drag in some of my other blogging friends) to tackle some of these things for us.

I'll get things started. First an example of what I'm thinking.

Mold or mildew--musty, pungent, wet-damp, musty, mushroomy, or dirty.

Ok, what are some other smells we should describe?

1. a winter morning 
2. an onion
3. Stinky feet
4. blood
5. a hospital room
6. the school cafeteria
7. a fall day
8. apple pie fresh out of the oven
9. a spring breeze
10. a house on fire
11. a body on fire
12. leather
13. wet dog
14. the inside of a new car
15. a house where 10 cats live
16. a man passed out drunk
17. the smell of cigarette's on someone's breath
a locker room
a party
a restaurant (depending on type of cuisine)
booze breath
the first day of school
the beach

What do you want to add?
Also feel free to tell me which ones need no description because they are obvious. I'm thinking cigarette breath is obvious, but maybe not?


  1. I love this idea, because I have a main character who has an intensified sense of smell. I could use some ideas!

    Other suggestions: a locker room, a party, a restaurant (depending on type of cuisine), booze breath, the first day of school, rain, the beach, grass, fear, vomit, sex (or is that TMI?).

  2. I'm adding these above. I did leave off sex though. too TMI for me, but I did read a book once that described a woman as smelling like sex and I wondered what that meant. Let's say I was younger and inexperienced at that time. Now I get it. James Patterson even said the rain in one of his books "smelled like semen" so I guess they are descriptive enough?

  3. Love this post.
    I am heavy into reoccurring themes that include aromas. I wrote about a market place that smelled like melon, strawberries and fresh cinnamon buns. In a romantic scene someone's breath smelled like spearmint and beer. Needless to say the mood fizzled. Malika


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