Tag Archives: Sense of smell

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

How does your Hero smell?

I know… that’s a horrible title. LOL. It conveys so many negative images, doesn’t it?

What I really want to know is, what –for lack of a better word – smell or scents do you use to describe your male characters?

I’ve read heroes defined as smelling like sandalwood, natural musk, earthy, woodsy, piney, and like leather. Okay. So he smells like he’s been tramping about in the woods or forest. These are okay descriptions for lumberjacks and Men in Kilts.   I’ve also read descriptions stating the hero smelled like cigarettes, booze, hay, horse sweat, and even “like a farm.” None of those descriptions made me want to jump into fictional bed with the guy.

I read a very old romance novel once that said this: His clothes had the odor of the fish he’d caught that day on them. Right away I knew I wasn’t going to finish this book. There was no way a hero should smell like stale-or even fresh-fish.


Sensory descriptions are mandatory when you write romance novels. All five of the senses need to be explored. Sight, taste, and touch have their own separate categories and I could blog for days on just those three alone. Sound is also important to put in a narrative or a descriptor. But smell; smell can form an instant recognition and connection of your character with your reader.

Everyone knows what grass, lemons, and the beach smell like. They are sensory memories stored in your brain and olfactory system for life. So if I describe a hero’s aftershave as cool and lemony, you have an immediate reference and knowledge for what it smells like.   If I say my hero brought the smell of fresh cut grass in with him, again, you have an allusion to what I am trying to convey. The line he smelled of sand and sea is fairly synonymous with the fresh smell of a beach. (Note, smelling like the sea is NOT the same as smelling like fish!) These are pleasant scents that, when we read them, elicit pleasant memories.

I’m not big on guys wearing cologne. I’ll put that out there and suffer the wrath of every woman who loves her guy doused in Polo. I tend to favor – and be stimulated by (okay: turned on by!) more natural scents. I love a guy who’s right from a shower and smells clean and fresh; I don’t even mind the normal odor of a sweaty guy – if he’s doing something sporty or physical and working up a nice, decent sweat. This is the smell I usually think of when I hear someone smells manly, or like a man. And there’s something about a guy who’s grilling and the aroma following him that makes my mouth water.

Okay, now that I think about the last one, it could just be the smell of cooked meat I’m getting aroused by.

Speaking of meat, a few years ago there was a study done by some big company about what smell men are most attracted to on a woman. It wasn’t roses, or any kind of flower. It wasn’t the clean, dewy, fresh-out-of-the-bath fragrance either. It was – are you ready for it?- bacon.

I know!

I seems cooking isn’t the only way to a man’s heart. All my single girlfriends out there – invite a guy you like to a meal and then make him something with bacon in it. It’s almost like a guaranteed proposal. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what that proposal should be.

So, when you’re doing due diligence and incorporating those 5 senses into your writing, remember to include something that will stimulate a positive olfactory memory.

And stay away from descriptors for fishy smells.

Best male smell descriptions you’ve ever read…let’s discuss…



Filed under Alpha Hero, Alpha Male, Author, Contemporary Romance, Romance, Romance Books