This morning, as my son hugged me big, he said, ‘You smell so good, you rival the aroma of bacon.”
Like so many across America, the guys in my digs worship the breakfast meat known to move grown men to create odes, comedy routines, fine arts pieces and better-living inventions inspired by wavy, fat-crisped, lip-slicking strips of smoky-pungent wickedness. If you ask a bacon-digging guy you know why he loves it, I bet he’ll say something about it’s smelling great while frying. And it doesn’t have to be sizzling on the griddle for him to state that; he remembers fondly the olfactory experience.
It’s that “aroma recall” which can affect us equally as intensely when we read novels, although we may not give it a second thought. Sure, we may rocket through a passage in a well-tended rose garden, and associate a sweet fragrance. But what of the more subtle, intimate scents that draw characters to one another, the natural and created aromas? Not only do scents evoke memories and related emotions in us, but also we absorb characters’ scent memories and emotions as they relate to one another.
Doesn’t make sense? Think paranormals in which mates “scent” one another. The author may use descriptives we easily associate, let’s say, a “summer rain” aroma. If the mates’ scenting always includes increased sexual arousal or protective instincts, we slap those understandings to our own whenever we read some form of the summer-rain descriptive in that novel.
Yet sometimes we develop associations with scents we haven’t experienced as we become familiar with certain sub-genres. For instance, one may never have smelled bergamot- or sandalwood-scented shaving soap, but I’d wager the initiated reader eventually associates it with a delicious-smelling hero in an English historical romance.
There’s always the possibility that an olfactory association is negative. I wonder whether in that case, it might affect the reader’s overall experience, and possibly color the way she feels about characters and storylines. Perhaps even that, while unfortunate for the reader, is a sign of an author’s success, as effectively addressing and evoking each of our senses is a hallmark of good storytelling.
How does the description of scent affect your reading experience? What are the “described scents” that have come to evoke certain emotions for you in a romance, or novels in general?
Dying for Romance?: Every day this month, meet and swap comments w/a different top romantic suspense author at BN’s Mystery boards as moderator Becke Davis celebrates Valentine’s Day with a Month of Romantic Suspense! Feb: 5 Carla Neggers; 6 Mariah Stewart; 7 JoAnn Ross; Val Day Special Guest: Suz Brockmann.
Michelle Buonfiglio writes daily about romance fiction at BN’s Heart to Heart and RomanceBuytheBook.com and Tuesdays at BN’s Unabashedly Bookish. Buonfiglio also authors the popular RBTB NEWs romance newsletter.