Mini Series — The Senses — Smell

Hearing, Sight, Smell, Taste, TouchNose-Smell

Welcome back to my mini-series on the five senses.  This time we’re working with Smell.  I hope today’s post doesn’t turn out to be a stinker.  (Okay… sorry. You know I can’t resist a play on words.)

I meant for this installment to be extremely lighthearted, and a scene from Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers quickly came to mind.  Descriptive as it may be, it doesn’t really exemplify the point I wanted to make, but for fun, here’s the tidbit from Episode 20 anyway.  In this snippet, Felicity, the woman in trousers, is tipsy from the physical reaction Absinthe (the Green Fairy) had when he was abruptly frightened.

Green fairy skunk

Absinthe, the Green Fairy

It was no accident, I thought to myself, that the Green Fairy looked like a tiny green skunk, albeit one with gossamer wings.  Much like a frightened skunk could spray a noxious odor from special anal glands, Absinthe produced a vapor that was the equivalent of highly concentrated absinthe liquor; an already potent potable in its pure form.  That such a petite personage could produce so powerful a poot was positivelyOh my, what a lot of P words, I thought.  Perhaps I’m not fully sober.  I’m glad I kept that ramble to myself.

“Felicity,” Cornelis said raising one bushy blonde eyebrow.  “You did say that out loud darling,” he added and I cleared my throat, looking around suspiciously.

As I mentioned, that tidbit just didn’t illustrate the kind of reader-reaction I had in mind. Then, in looking through my work for another comical scene to share, I came across a snippet of suspense that fit the bill for “Smell” perfectly.  It doesn’t mention a variety of odors, or go into great detail describing them — but that is my point.Clothespin on Nose

Smell is a powerful sense.  The memory of an odor or aroma, whether good or bad, can stay with us for a lifetime.  Sometimes the mere mention of a smell is evocative enough to set the entire stage, with very little added description.  I hope I did that with this snippet.

This example for smell comes from the second interactive serial I published here, Murder at the Bijou: Three Ingredients, Cookbook-1.  This tidbit is from Episode-13 of the serial.  Once again the young flapper, Pip, is the narrator of this Roaring Twenties tale.  She rushed to the aid of her “crush” and came upon a  terrible scene.

***

1920s PhotoPlay

I don’t remember getting out of the Model-T.  I don’t remember Granny Fanny shouting the words “No, Pip.  Don’t look!”  I don’t remember the young policeman taking my arm to hold me back.  And I don’t remember pulling free of his grasp to approach the tall bloody form stretched out on the ground with a hat covering his face.  All I remember is smelling the coppery odor of blood, and seeing the fedora that belonged to Detective Dabney Daniels covering the face.

The hat was still rumpled from where Dabney crushed it in his hands when he told Granny and me about Marshal Moses Myrick being ambushed.  The young copper caught my arm again, more firmly that time.  Granny had my other arm.  “I have to…” was all I could manage to say.

A Ford that vaguely resembled the one belonging to the marshal sat with steam coming from the radiator.  Its front tires were flat, the windshield shattered.  The metal was so riddled with bullet holes that it hardly looked like the same car.Speakeasy_Stories-July

Several pigeons sat on the roof of a small building, looking on curiously.  I noticed the birds in a dazed sort of way.  They fluttered off as two more police cars roared up to the place, sirens blaring.  But I barely saw or heard the commotion.

“Miss, please.  You don’t want to look.  It wouldn’t help you!” the young officer said, seeming almost frantic to find the right words.  I guessed that this kind of scene was as new to him as it was to me.  As I tried to pull away from his grasp the young man spoke in a horrified strangle of a voice, “His face is a mess!”

Granny took in a sharp breath.  She froze next to me.  She tilted her head the way she did when she was unraveling a puzzle of one kind or another.  Then her shoulders relaxed minutely.  She was saying something but I wasn’t listening.  Finally a sharp “Paisley Idelle!” pierced the fog of my overwhelmed mind.

“It’s not Dabney!” she said in a tone that suggested she had already said the same thing three times.  Three was sort of a magic number with Granny.  She’d repeat herself, but if she had to say something a third time… well, she didn’t appreciate it.

***

young Lucy blue

Young Lucille Ball

I hope my mention of the “coppery odor of blood” woke up your nose and caused you to smell other things in the scene. Perhaps engine oil leaking; a hot odor from the newly bullet riddled car, steam from the radiator…  It did that for me when I wrote that passage, so I hope I successfully conveyed it to you. If I fell short, well… both of these snippets were from spontaneous, unedited “pantser” stories. 

Your Turn!

Look at the image below.  What do you smell?  This image is from an unidentified spot in New York City. The characters in your (pretend) story are going to spend some time on this street.  Use the sense of smell to bring the story to life. The street is nearly deserted, perhaps that indicates a time of day. There are a few trees.  Many of the windows are barred.  There are fire escapes, window-unit air conditioners, a manhole cover.  There is sunlight down at the street corner, but it either has left, or has yet to reach our street.  Put yourself into this image.  Nose around with your imagination.  Now tell me what you smell.

NYC empty street

What did you smell?   

Open Invitation:  If this inspired you to just write something or otherwise create anything according to the sense featured today, that’s even better!  If you want, you can use the comments to leave a link to your story or blog post.  Kindly link back to this post if you blog about what you wrote, cooked, painted, or photographed.

Thanks for visiting.

Mega hugs,

Teagan

 

Copyright © 2016 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or from Pinterest unless stated otherwise.

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117 thoughts on “Mini Series — The Senses — Smell

  1. Great, potent snippets to illustrate the power of smell Teagan! I smell the fragrance of exotic trees, the smell of rain on a hot road, the competing scents of cooking from the buildings along the street…. 🙂

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    • Hi Andrea. You’re such a master of description. The simple addition of “competing” to the cooking scents makes me see (or smell) the scene in a different, more lively way. I’m so pleased that you took time to come out and play! Mega hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Actually the smell that came to mind as I read the excerpt was when we were in Nepal on the river. The smell of hay, wood, cloth and bodies. Never never ever forget that pungent yet sweet smell. It was at least 15 years ago.

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  3. The “coppery odor of blood” is such a powerful one for invoking the sense of smell, Teagan! As for the city photo you share, I smell burning oil from a car nearby as I walk along the now vacant street. The wind picks up and the oil scent is replaced with the scent of leaves that are blowing around me. Ah, what a great exercise of the senses you sent us on here!

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  4. I smell Petrichor Teagan!! The last time I was in New York I had that delicious cheesy hot pizza at Domino’s so I can smell that in the air faintly. When it is just after rain the scents of food are wafting low in the air and I find myself following the scent to find the nearest Domino’s outlet on the main street. Wish me luck 🙂

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  5. I catch a faint smell of coffee and freshly baked biscuits from the corner shop. It is early in the morning and the rain has washed away all the dirt and everything smells fresh and clean.

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    • Gerlinde — you had me at biscuits! 😀 (It’s been so rare for me to have a delicious southern biscuit since I’ve been here.) What you “smelled” put me in the frame of mind of new beginnings. Thanks for coming out to play! Mega hugs.

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  6. I’m so far behind, I lie to myself I’m ahead…
    Do you see that overhang, where the man and his dog aim to turn right? That’s a small cafe you might miss if you weren’t looking. It’s 6:30 a.m. Early. Peaceful. Fragrant to the degree New York is capable before the start of day. The city wakes in drips and drabs, sleepyheads still lost in a catatonic haze. Some of the brave sleep with open windows–the lucky ones–who wake to heady scents of fresh baked bread and buns, and fresh-roasted coffee. Soon the air will fill with the stink of vehicular exhaust, burnt rubber smells on asphalt from complacent drivers, and campfire reminders from a couple million cigarettes. Yes, 6:30 a.m. is my favorite time. It’s quiet. It smells good. It feels good to be alive again in the city that never sleeps.

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  7. I’m sitting in my grandmother’s bedroom in an upstairs apartment. The window is open an inch or two. Rain-soaked leaves blow against the the fire escape, leaving a scent of dank moss mixed with rusty iron, but the smell I concentrate on is Grandma’s Chanel No 5 body powder.

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  8. Freshly baked Blueberry pancakes are what I can smell, Teagan. I can also smell the scent of the leaves on those trees. It’s a slightly damp smell as there has been a brief rain shower and the already hot sun is getting to work on drying the street up. I can also smell ‘fresh air’ which is so refreshing. It’s the smell you get after a heavy downpour on a summer’s day and clears the nostrils of any blockage.

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  9. Teagan, hot summer concrete smell, mixed with muggy air after the rain. A hint of coffee brewing from a nearby window. This takes a lot of concentration to walk down this street and smell something and not just see all the detail! Great exercise. Have a wonderful Sunday! Snow stay away! 💛 Hugs…Elizabeth

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    • LOL, I sure hope that snow listens to you, Elizabeth!
      I’m pleased you enjoyed this exercise with the sense of smell. It’s fun to look back at these, after forgetting the actual photo, and “see” the setting through the smells. The real trick is to use each of the five senses here and there in our writing.
      Thanks very much, my friend, for coming out to play! Mega hugs.

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  10. After several attempts to smell something else, I still feel nothing but fried fish that someone is cooking for their lunch. I am sure there are many other smells, but what can beat a fried fish?? Nothing. Sorry for such prosaic contribution. Many hugs!!!

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  11. That looks like a street in the West Village, Greenwich Village. I know the smells of NYC streets very well. The first thing that came to mind is bread baking like Sullivan Street Bread Shop, the smell of wet concrete an a faint smell of bleach because sometimes shop keepers clean the sidewalk in front of their stores or restaurants, smells coming from restaurants and even sometimes you can smell what people are cooking. You also can smell rather unsavory things in NYC, garbage, urine, and the like but we won’t concentrate on that. I love the two trees that seem to be leaning into each other and I so enjoyed reading again from both The woman in Trouser series and Murder at Bijou-Three Ingredients series. What fun this is Teagan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Suzanne. I was looking forward to your comment since you’d have first hand knowledge, Brooklyn Pug Girl. 😀 The bread aroma has been in my head ever since I saw those divine loaves you posted!
      I love that you said ” a faint smell of bleach because sometimes shop keepers clean the sidewalk in front of their stores…” That really brings it to life for me — that small day-to-day detail. I’m so happy that you enjoy this series. Thanks so very much for coming out to play. Mega hugs!

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I am really enjoying this series Teagan. This is such an interesting post, and definitely not a stinker..lol! When I look at this picture, I would guess it is early in the morning. I imagine there is a bakery around the corner, and the air smells of fresh bread and last night’s rain. The people living in the building, open their windows to try and catch a sniff of bakery heaven through the bars every morning. 😉

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  13. I step around a puddle on my way to the courthouse. It should smell like a fresh rain, and would back at my home. Here, it smells like the diesel floating atop the puddle. A faint whiff of coal dust catches me from the cellar door on my left, and yeast assaults my nostrils from the bakery along the right. I tuck the train tickets into my jacket and button it over my pistol. Two quick shots after the press conference, and I should be home by supper.

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  14. The street cleaner just went by and turned the corner. What’s left is the wet street smear and that faint odor of pine that I used to associate as a kid with the outhouses at camp. Expecting the same kind if mixture I carefully tiptoed across the street trying to keep the reused filth off my Italian oxfords on my way to beg Franco for my life.

    Fun stuff, Teagan. Have a great weekend.

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  15. So fun to think of the smells that stop us in out tracks, Teagan, — at least the good ones anyway. I love the smell of pine trees and coffee, bread and lilacs, fresh cut grass and grills in backyards. There are so many!

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  16. Reblogged this on CKBooks Publishing and commented:
    And I’d add a 6th sense – what does something “feel” like, the emotional sense, so to speak. A most important addition in my book.
    The more we can evoke emotions as a writer, the more we’re going to touch the reader, and isn’t that what we’re all about? 🙂

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    • Welcome Christine! Thanks very much for reblogging.
      I wasn’t sure how well these posts would be received… but maybe I’ll do a bonus at the end of the series for a sixth sense. The heroine in my novel relies heavily on her very unreliable intuition. So maybe I will at that… Food for thought. Hugs!

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  17. When it rains, I wish for the smell of lush gardens and meadows of home, but here in the city, the stench of dirty streets reminds me I am a long way from.home. As I walk past the various homes and storefronts, I catch delicious smells wafting from the bakery and from someone’s kitchen. The sweet smell of rich pastries mingled with the savory aroma of pasta sauce simmering on the stove erase the acrid odor of the city streets.

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  18. Teagan, this is not even close to a stinker. 🙂
    Thanks for the throwback and the throwdown.
    Smell is a weird thing for me, I’m overly-sensitive to all smells which I believe is why I have trouble writing the whole olfactory thing, but this image makes me think of lingering gasoline fumes, freshly-baked cinnamon rolls, and sunshine on the concrete after a warm summer rain.
    Thank you for the lovely wake-up in my email, dear friend, hopefully the snow isn’t bad today.
    Megahugs only delightful smells xo

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    • Hi Donna. The snow is finally gone (except the big piles from the plows)… sadly it’s in the forecast again for Tuesday. Fingers and toes crossed that the weather people are wrong and we don’t get any at all.
      My nose is hyper sensitive too. I smell all sorts of things that other people have to really think about before they smell the odor, if at all. That’s one more problem living in a row house…
      Thanks for sharing the lovely image-smells the photo gave you. Okay, gasoline not so lovely 🙂 . However, it IS an odor that vividly sets a scene, with the bare mention of it. I’m delighted that you came out to play! Mega hugs my friend.

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  19. Six thirty Saturday morning and I push the manhole cover and climb out, the putrid stench of sewerage and sweat is trapped below as I push the lid quietly into place. A night underground makes you appreciate your freedom, the fresh air hits my nose and lungs simultaneously I retch, it’s too much the light the taste and smell all at once. The vomit mixed with the stench on my clothes makes me heave once more. Slowly getting my breath in this backstreet, reminds me of better times. Then the bakery’s back grid wafts out the warm doughy smell that makes my stomach rumble and me think of what I’m missing. An old timer walks his hound towards me, the sun just warmed his coat as we levelled he had obviously been swimming in the park, steaming dog never smelled so good and homely I pet him as I pass.
    I walk in to the sun and the smell of eucalyptus beautifully floating in the air from the trees evokes memories I’d sooner forget, my baby sick with croup , tears sting my eyes as I turn the corner leaving the scent of regret behind.

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  20. Pingback: THE CITY STREET | Musings on Life & Experience

  21. There’s something about a sharp splash of rain on hot dry Tarmac that takes me back to break time at school, that condensed dust smell as I run free of double French, steal an illicit first kiss from Alison Scott who screams. The teacher’s whistle is too late and I’m gone. I’m leaning against that tree on the left, nine again and still an optimist. Then something redolent of too many yesterdays wafts up from an air vent and in less than a breath I gain the missing years.

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  22. Reblogged this on Kate McClelland and commented:
    I can smell a slight hint of ozone and the fresh dampness in the air. A rich dark aroma of coffee and freshly baked croissants wafts passed me. A slight whiff of damp rust from the iron framed balconies above. Clean, newly washed pavement warming and drying as it feels the creeping warm of the sun.

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  23. Baked goods, as suggested above would be a wonderful smell. Unfortunately, I’ve been to New York too many times, and I know that New-York-City-after-a-brief-bit-of-rain smell all too well. As soon as I spied the first shiny puddle, I could smell that smell.

    A great heavy rain will wash things clean, but a quick downpour releases the odors trapped in the oil and trash and who knows what lying in the gutter. I can’t describe that smell, bit I would recognize it in an instant, even when it mixes with the smells from the pretzel and sausage carts.

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  24. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Teagan Geneviene continues her mini-series today on the senses. When we write about humans in our stories it is important that we bring our characters to life and one of the ways to do this is by including our natural senses.. Today it is smell.. Apart from a very interesting post you might like to take up the challenge and describe a smell associated with an image of a New York Street which Teagan has included.

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  25. It’s early Sunday morning in New York City…..the one morning when the streets are still quiet and the smell of nature can still come through loud and clear. The trees are throwing off their beautiful perfume and every now and then as I walk past houses, I can smell the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. A time to be cherished.
    Have a wonderful weekend, my friend and may you be surrounded with colourful, magical hummingbirds and the smell of fresh brewed coffee.. Janet. xxx

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    • Dear Janet — thank you for this beautiful wish! It must have been the magical hummingbirds who brought the glorious vivid pink sunrise this morning. ❤
      Ahhh coffee — now that is another strong olfactory memory! You set the scene perfectly. Mega hummingbird hugs. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  26. I know you said “coppery odor of blood” but my nose got stuck at absinthe and its over-powering smell.
    Looking at the picture I get a waft of moist earth as the road with its trees and flower by the windows dries up slowly. A fresh sea breeze, too.
    I love mornings 🙂
    Have a fantastic weekend! Hugs!

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    • Excellent, Maureen. The scent of rain as it mixes with other things may not stand out boldly in our memories, but nonetheless it comes immediately to mind when mentioned. I had not thought about how powerful that is. Thanks for coming out to play! Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. I catch the scent of fresh baked bread and from somewhere the smell of a meal being cooked, the smell of a sauce of some kind.It’s just as well I had breakfast Teagan or I’d be on your case making me smell food like this.
    Hope you’re all right Dear Heart
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

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    • Dear David, I’m fine. (Freaking out just a little because they have snow in the forecast again, but it shouldn’t be a bad one.) I imagined bread baking too, but I’ll blame it on that gorgeous bread post from Suzanne at A Pug in the Kitchen! 😀 Did the photo just look like the kind of place where there were people cooking behind all those windows? Looking forward to your next diary post. Mega hugs.

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  28. All I can imagine are the smells of a wet city street in the summertime in Madrid, Spain, which were a mix of plants, concrete, warm asphalt, oil and urine. Sometimes we’d catch decent smells of something cooking, or some fragrance from flowers in a window pot. But normally not the best of smells on the city streets, especially when it was warm.

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    • Hi Tim. That is a perfect illustration of how powerful the sense of smell is to our memories. I know from your posts that it was many years ago when you, your wife, and daughter lived in Spain. But clearly you can smell it like it was yesterday, and you set a vivid scene. Give all the kitties a good scratching for me. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

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