The Challenge Of Describing Scents In Your Writing

Here is a thought-provoking article about the struggle that writers have to describe smells. I would say that the same applies to tastes. I will certainly work harder in the future to stimulate the noses and tongues of my readers.

By the way, I have also been puzzled by the descriptions offered up by wine connoisseurs. Their language is rather pretentious and usually means nothing to me.. They should try harder too!

Nicholas C. Rossis

Scents in writing | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book Image: Pixabay

Of all the human senses, I find smell the hardest to use in writing. And yet, it’s one of the most powerful, as a number of studies have shown it’s hard-wired into our brain, and a shortcut to all sorts of strong emotions. So why is it so hard to find the right word for a smell?

Turns out, I’m hardly the only one in this predicament. As a recent Economist article on scents recently explained, the human sense of smell itself is weak. Scientists suspect this is the result of an evolutionary trade-off in the primate brain in favor of visual procession power. In simple terms, we see great, but we couldn’t smell ourselves out of a perfume factory.

This is of particular interest to humans, as the relative weakness of smell compared with sight extends to language, too. Humans have no difficulty putting names to…

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About Lance Greenfield

Blog: email: I published my debut novel in December 2014: Eleven Miles. My second novel went live in February 2016: Knitting Can Walk!
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3 Responses to The Challenge Of Describing Scents In Your Writing

  1. Many thanks for sharing! As for wine connoisseurs, I suspect some of them use such an unwieldy language as a sort of social validation. After all, professionals have been using language to signify their belonging to a specific social group for ages: witness the language as used by sailors, soldiers, priests, teens, etc.

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