My People - Smell - Jo-Ann Carson

My People – Smell

hemingwayWriting Quote for the week:

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.” Earnest Hemingway

Living Quote for the week:

“Be kind when ever possible. It is always possible.” Dalai Lama

About the Smell…

I’m trying to nail the smell of “my people.” Seriously.
It’s not easy. Every man can’t smell manly. Nor every woman, delicate. In the real world people smell distinctly different. Describing those distinctions and having them not only identify the character, but also tell us something about them is an art, one that I’m scratching at the edges of and would love to master. For example Bob can smell of stale cigarettes, last night’s party, cheap wine, chalk board dust, sauerkraut and beer, salt and vinegar potato chips, gunpowder, embalming fluid, moth balls or…
Part of defining body odor is recognizing perfume fragrances. When I started researching them I found a plethora of fun names for cologne, which also add to the character. I have one naughty lady wearing “Black Dahlia” and a cop sporting “Guilty.”
On my to-do list for my Seattle trip is finding out what these perfumes actually smell like (that and looking for Glocks in pawn shops). The life of a writer.  I digress.
My point is that perfume names are wild.
Here’s a little list for women: Body Tender, Candy, Knowing, Bandit, First, Obsession, Opium, Joy, Spellbound
And for men, a quote from Esquire magazine:

Scent triggers memory. Science says so. Which means that cologne can be more than just a way to smell nice. It can be an olfactory scrapbook carried around your neck, each element reminding you of some aspect of who you are, what you’ve been through, or how you feel about babies. So don’t choose a cologne because it’s what you want to smell like. Choose it because it smells like you.” (Esquire Magazine on-line)

And some of their names: Eros, Gentlemen Only, Le Beau Male, The Game, Black
Anyway that’s what I’m up to this week: smelling people and trying to find the words to describe the experience. So if I hover near your neck, fear not. I am not a vampire, just a writer.
Have a great week.

0 Replies to “My People – Smell”

  1. You are brilliant, Jo-Ann. I never really gave much thought to how people smell. Except of course that working sweaty smell that men get. And now that I think about it. Little boys have a distinct smell. Can’t describe it, but as an elementary principal, I smelled it often. 🙂
    The Esquire quote is intriguing. Do you suppose men think like that? Well, they must, after all , it’s Esquire. LOL
    I have only used three maybe four scents in my whole life. Interlude by Estee Lauder when I was in college and through much of young adulthood. Struggling young wife an mother I changed to something lighter, but can’t pull the name out, only kind of remember the scent. At some point in grown up life I changed to Intuition by Estee Lauder. I bet I’ve worn that for 20 years. However, I don’t wear it often now. Some people have such allergies to scents.
    Definitely a thought-provoking post, Jo-Ann. I’m off to smell the folks in the grocery store. 🙂

    1. Marsha
      And you are too kind.
      I know what you mean about little boy smells. lol.
      I laughed when I read the Esquire quote. Talk about good marketing. I wanted to go out and buy some. Drink it even. Do men think that way? None I know.And yet the words still seduce me. Interesting.
      I was given a bottle of Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps by a cousin when I was a teenager and fell in love with it. I wore it right through most of my teaching career. It’s light and I only used a dab. When I passed fifty I decided the time had come for a grownup smell, so I experimented with heavier Chanel scents. No one commented. But who would?
      When my first daughter was getting married, she asked to borrow my old perfume for the “borrow part” of the wedding tradition. It hit me. She associated that smell with me. Then my second daughter got married and she asked… You never know how you effect others. My five year old granddaughter loves it.
      So now, if I wear perfume (which is rare because so many places ask you not to) I fall back on L’Air du Temps. It has wonderful memories for me.
      Your history with perfume reminded me of mine. Now when I head to the city I’m going to check out the smell of Intuition. Love the name.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and adding to the conversation.
      Hope no one hits you with an umbrella at the grocery store.

  2. Great post! Have to say I have rarely thought about or used how people smell in my stories. Which is kind of odd because I’m very sensitive to odors and am allergic to perfumes. I get used to products I use, but others’ scents can make me sick.
    Now to work on how to use smells. Thanks.

    1. Hi Kate
      My nose is getting more sensitive to unnatural scents, but I don’t get sick. I sympathize with you and others who are allergic to perfumes, because they can be anywhere. It must be hard.
      I’m glad you like my post.Thanks for stopping by.
      Best Wishes

  3. I really react to unnatural scents particularly cleaning products. I can hardly walk down the aisle in the store.
    The description “manly” reminds me of that commercial where the woman says (of a good scent) “like a man fresh out of the shower.” I think I once used the phrase “of a man who’s been working, hard, in the sunshine.” Know that one?
    Then there’s the “man who’s been working on the car” scent, although I hardly find that one on my guy anymore.
    This definitely brings up memories. Thank you.

    1. Hi Judy
      I know what you mean. The smell of disinfectants burns the inside of my nose.
      I love your manly smell stories. I’ll never forget walking into a wet room where loggers stored their stuff in a remote logging camp on the Haida Gwaii. The male smell was so strong it practically knocked me out. I guess that’s like the sunshine smell you mention.
      Glad I touched some memories for you. Thanks for stopping by.

    1. Hi Emma
      One of the reasons I enjoy the occasional paranormal is their use of sensory detail. I like your, “icy musk” and “apple” description. It makes them more real to me.Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  4. Your post was as entertaining as all heck, Jo-Ann. And I’m delighted to say I’ve googled scents and tried to analyse them as well. Always good to find a like-minded soul on these topics. Makes me feel not-so-cuckoo as I get more and more obsessed with my writing. Can I join you when you go to the gun shop? Don’t need to know about glocks but would love to know more about derringers…for my historical novels of course 🙂

    1. Hi Jacqui
      Thanks for the compliment. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who gets obsessed by smells. I’d love to go looking for guns with you for writing purposes…of course. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Whoeee! You made me smile this morning. Living on a mini-farm, I associate manly smells involved with manly activities like shearing alpacas. So, you have the hay, the sweat and yes, the manure.
    All very outdoorsy and real.
    In my teens and twenties, I experimented with alot of perfumes. But I guess I moved away from that. Living in Quebec for almost fourteen years, many of the women who worked in downtown office buildings looked fabulous and yes, smelled lovely as well. I didn’t have a clue what they were using as scents.
    Scents truly have an impact on a person. And certainly can be woven into writing. Great post.

    1. Hi Jodie
      Aaah. Thanks for the compliments.
      I like earthy smells, but I draw the line at manure. But then again, if it’s mixed with all the rest of the outdoor smells it probably “works” just fine. Truly authentic, and all
      Smells hit us at a very primal level. They’re fun to play with in writing.
      Congrats again on your latest release.

  6. I love the sense of smell. I think it’s one of the reasons I’m drawn to writing Paranormal and UF. You’re not alone in the Google Department. Did you know, for instance, there’s a zombie perfume? ( and yes, it comes in Him and Her! Here’s one of my favorite smell quotes: “The act of smelling something, anything, is remarkably like the act of thinking. Immediately at the moment of perception, you can feel the mind going to work, sending the odor around from place to place, setting off complex repertories through the brain, polling one center after another for signs of recognition, for old memories and old connection.” – Lewis Thomas

    1. J.C.
      Great quote. I’m going to check out the zombie site. Thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation.
      And congratulations on your new contract. Can’t wait to read your shifter tales.

  7. Great article, Jo-Ann, thoughtful as usual.
    This topic and Marsha’s response reminded me of a scene in a historical novel I was working on a few years back (unpublished as yet) where I had a hell-hound who was stalking a young boy. And since at that point we were in the mind set of the hound, I asked for help at a Regency yahoo group to help me figure out how a child from 1814 would likely smell. And Nancy Mayer (great researcher that she is) said all little boys smell like what they last ate. And for breakfast, which he was having while sitting on his front porch steps, he was eating finger-length slices of fresh baked bread that he dipped into a cooked egg. Then he gulped down a steaming mug of milk. And so the hound began to associate that boy with the smell of fresh eggs and warm milk. 🙂

    1. Hi Shereen
      What an interesting way to figure out a person’s scent. Thanks so much for this. It makes absolute sense, and it’s so personal.
      Thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation.
      Best Wishes

  8. Hi Jo-Ann
    My people smell? Does she mean me? Jo-Ann’s not that mean spirited though. I read on.
    Ah, yes, now it makes sense. I’ve always said if there was smell TV or books, love scene in barns and stable would cease to exist. Ditto anything involving male hockey players after a hard fought win if they hadn’t yet had a shower. They can make ER nurses gag.
    But a gorgeous guy smelling of hay and sunshine, earthy with a touch of musk,now there’s another story. Or a female smelling of vanilla with exotic spices mixed in – wouldn’t do much for me, but might just bowl the male hero over.
    I remember some of the perfumes popular with teenage girls in my time and it was interesting to see how the AXE commercials affected teenage boys. Most soon realized dumping a bottle of the stuff on didn’t seem to have the same effect in real life.
    But I’m pretty sure that campaign brought in mega bucks to AXE. Such is the power of advertising!

    1. Hi Pat
      You made me laugh. I remember the AXE commercial. For the next six month I had a grade five boy pouring it on himself. It was hard to breath in his vicinity. The stuff is powerful and not in a good way. Yes, I agree, the power of advertising is amazing. I guess we all buy into it a bit thinking that a product could be just the thing to bring the opposite sex running our way. lol. Do we really want a man who likes us because of an off the shelf artificial scent?
      I bet you have lots of smelly stories from the ER. OMG the images that brings to mind. Just the thought.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and adding to the conversation.
      Best Wishes

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