Tag Archives: Olfactory responses

How does your heroine smell?

A while back I did a blog titled How does your hero smell? It was a light-hearted, but serious-intended piece about using your sense of smell as writer. Today, the tables are being metaphorically turned onto your heroine. So, for lack of a better title, How does your heroine smell?


Girls are supposed to smell, well, like girls. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a female character referred to as smelling “manly” in a book…not in any I’ve read, anyway. But aside from describing to your reader how your protagonist smells like the inside of an exotic flowering hothouse, or dousing her in buckets of eau d’parfume, what sensory motivators can you use?

We’ve all heard the line sugar and spice and everything nice; that’s what little girls are made of. Well, what about big girls? I kind of think the same thing applies.smell3

Let me ‘splain it you, Lucy.

What does sugar really smell like? Well, we know it tastes sweet, so that colors what our sense of smell tells us it’s like. What, aside from sugar, is sweet? A few things come to mind for me: chocolate, vanilla, cherries, apples. You get the idea. Maybe your heroine smells like warm vanilla pudding, or caramels melting over ripe apples. She sounds good enough to eat, right? And if she does to us, she does to the hero, too (don’t even go there! This is a G-rated blog).

So what spices come to mind when you hear the above saying? When I think of spices I think of tangy, potent ones like cinnamon and nutmeg, citrus and lemongrass. Stuff that I recognize when it hits my tastebuds. Spicy can also be hot, like peppers – although I’d rather name a character Pepper than describe her as smelling like one. Maybe it’s just me, but if I read a character described as smelling like a chili pepper, I’d first think she worked in a Mexican restaurant and I’d have an immediate vision of her that might not be anything like the author wanted. Although now that I think that through….hummmmm.

Back to smells.

The end of the saying tells us girls smell like everything nice. Well, what smells nice to you may not smell nice to me. For instance, I love the smell of coffee brewing, but wouldn’t want to go around smelling like an urn all day. There’s a commercial out right now for – I think, Honey Bunches of Oats – where the line worker goes shopping after working all day at the cereal plant and she says people around her sniff and say they smell cookies. She tells them, “nah, that’s me. I just came from work. You’re just smelling Honey Bunches of Oats.” Now, I don’t think I want to smell like cereal, but you certainly remember the commercial, and therefore the product, so somebody wrote something good there! What smells nice to you? Cotton sheets that have been line-dried smell nice; lemonaid smells nice. Lots of things do.

The lesson learned here is that men and women smell very differently and when we write sensory descriptions, we really need to keep sex ( read: Gender) in mind. I wouldn’t want to write my hero as smelling like a full blooming hothouse jasmine flower laced with sin, but I would describe my heroine that way. Only better, because that line is a little cheesy… and very poorly written. But you get the idea.

So, how do your heroines smell? Let’s discuss…

'I like a boy in my class. Do you have anything that smells like peanut butter?'

‘I like a boy in my class. Do you have anything that smells like peanut butter?’




Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Romance, Strong Women