Hidey-Ho Scribblers!  J Monkeys here.  A crazy thing happened to me earlier this week and I thought I’d share it with you.  I woke up at 2:30 in the morning to the smell of cigarette smoke outside my bedroom window.   This is especially weird for several reasons:

1.  I live in a house with a fenced-in back yard,

2.  Nobody in my household smokes cigarettes,

3.  Everyone in my household who could smoke was asleep at 2:30 in the morning.

That left only one conclusion – someone sinister was lurking in the yard, smoking to pass the time until he was ready to unleash his evil plan.  I tried to wake Hubby-O-Mine, to no success.  The dog continued to snore, as well, as I crept around my house, clad only in jammies, peering out windows looking into the darkness, searching for the telltale glow from the red tip of the smoker’s cigarette.  I didn’t see anyone, so I went back to bed.  Of course I couldn’t sleep.  I’ve watched too many episodes of Criminal Minds for that. 


Shemar Moore is Dreamy!

After a few minutes of waiting for things to go bump in the night, I flipped on my bedside lamp and read for a few hours.  I figured that the lamp would spook our would-be home invader, anyway.  Eventually the smell dissipated and I began to think that I had dreamt it.

Around 4:30, I was starting to drift back to sleep, so I figured it was safe and turned the light back off.  Everything was fine, until 5:30 when I once again jumped from dreamy sleep to fully awake because it smelled like someone was blowing smoke through my window.  This time, I shoved Hubby awake.  I wanted to be sure I wasn’t imagining things.  He agreed that the air smelled suspicious and even got up and did the peering-through-the-windows thing for me.

We never did see or hear anyone outside.  It was a very muggy night, so we decided that a neighbor or someone, was smoking in their yard and the smoke just hung there.  Perhaps there was a fire nearby.  We live right on the boarder of the next state so it’s very possible that a fire could have happened there and I wouldn’t know about it.  But it got me thinking…always rife with trouble, I know.

Do I include enough smells in my writing? They (you know them, right?) say that smells are the strongest memories.  I can attest to that.  I went to sleep away camp as a child and I LOVED it.  I always wanted to be a counselor at the camp, but when I was in high school and college, I couldn’t afford to work for so little money.  When I was 27 I found myself with the possibility of a summer off and decided to fulfill that lifelong dream.  I interviewed for the job in February and when the director gave me a tour of the facility, I walked into one of the big cabins where the kids sleep.  They hadn’t been updated since I had been there last, about 15 years earlier, and after just one whiff, I thought to myself, “Yup, this is what camp smells like!”

But even aside from memories, what about pheromones?  I can tell you, again from personal experience, that pheromones are pretty strong, too.  Later that same summer, I was on a date with one of the other counselors from that very camp (I now call this fella Hubby-O-Mine, you may have heard of him…).  We were at a movie and I couldn’t get over how AWESOME this guy smelled.  Not like cologne or something like that…but just the essence of him.  Of course, 15 year later and I can’t always say he smells that way – more often it’s some kind of coffee/beef jerky/sweat kind of thing nowadays, but hey – the pheromones got me early on!

Today’s secret: the sense of smell is very powerful – and 20% of a human’s ability to sense.  Don’t leave it out!

Today’s question: So writer friends, are you adding enough smells to your stories? 


12 thoughts on “Smell-o-vision”

  1. Great post, J. Smell is highly underrated as a descriptor in books, and yes, it can evoke strong emotions. The trouble I have is describing smells without having them sound cliched. Those manly pheromone scents you mentioned are all too often equated with a”musky,” “earthy” scent. Describing it as sweaty is just not as romantic, but coming up with just the right words to describe a scent is very tricky.

    1. Yes, you notice that I didn’t mention that Hubby is no longer allowed to eat Doritos because he sweats them. Nacho sweat is not nice. No. 🙂

  2. Ha ha, I remember telling my first husband he smelled like my grandma. Now, I thought this was a compliment of the highest order because I loved my grandma more than anyone. (My husband not so much. I was 15.) And, my grandma always smelled like tobacco. So did he. Lesson learned though. Men don’t like to think they smell like someone’s grandma.
    I’m going to do a global search of my books and see how often I’ve used the words smell and scent … This is a great post! Thanks!

  3. Hi J. Did you ever figure out where the smoke came from? I agree with you in that smells can evoke a lot. My dad use to wear Old Spice and till this day that smell give me an emotional feeling of security. Great post.

  4. Well now that’s just weird. I agree it was probably a neighbor smoking nearby, and the air currents just happened to carry it your way. I also find it very difficult to describe scents.

  5. Your ‘mysterious smoke outside the window’, sounds like the start to a good story, especially one relating to the supernatural realm as others have said.

    As for scents in writing: The variety of smells that confront us on any given day have always been a thing for me. Weird I know, but I’ve subconsciously been separating good and bad smells (probably way more meticulously) than most people for so many years, that I can’t help but write about them as well lols.

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