Sexual attraction, scents, and smells

I really like this because I have a character in the sequel to my novel, ‘Lex Talionis’, that is sensitive to scents. To him, the woman he’s very attracted to smells like lemons.

This post also reminds me of the best writing advice I ever received. Use all five senses in your setting as much as possible and you’ll help the reader ‘see’ your world even more.

Sure, I can see a character focusing on some scents at certain times being a bit of a stretch, but I think the key to strengthening a scene might be to focus on the kinds of scents that heighten the action your scene is trying to underscore. You can choose to go the obvious way–a fighter smelling the metallic scent of blood during a bout–or you can contrast the scent with the action. A man waking up to the sweet smell of perfume, just before he’s attacked by the prostitute he bedded earlier.

It’s really up to the author to use this technique to highlight whatever emotions they were hoping to create in the reader. Sometimes you’ll hit, but sometimes you’ll miss. The reader always brings their 50%, after all.

Anna Kashina

I have recently seen some on-line discussions (including those of my books), questioning the use of scents and smells, especially in romantic fiction. This also came up more than once during some fiction workshops I was on, and I thought that overall it is an interesting topic to be discussed.

Scientific research shows that sexual attraction is actually to a large part driven by smells — usually not the overt kind that we can easily detect from a few feet away, but the more subtle kind, the chemical stimuli that we often don’t consciously register. These smells actually transmit a signal of genetic compatibility, since biologically sexual attraction is all about procreation and in the end the main reason for being attracted to a partner is the subtle sense that she/he will be the right parent for your offspring.

Some people are more sensitive to those smells than others. Those…

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