First Installment – The Sense of Touch ://totalebound.blogspot.com/2008_03_01_archive.html
Second Installment – The Sense of Sight
Third Installment - The Sense of Taste
This month we will be exploring The Sense of SMELL:
Never had she experienced such total sensual overload. The stars were so brilliant she felt as if she could reach up and pluck one from the sky. Nature’s serenade from tree frogs and crickets were accompanied by the gentle splash and of water tumbling over rocks in the fountain. Lying upon a fir throw they’d spread in the garden, surrounded by night blooming jasmine, the sweet, citrus like, floral scent had an almost overpowering, aphrodisiac affect. She reveled in the salty, masculine taste of his skin upon her lips, the flavor of the wine he’d passed from his mouth to hers. It felt as if every nerve end in her body had risen to the surface of her flesh as fine tuned receptors of pure sensation.
The paragraph above incorporates various senses. We all know that smells have the ability to turn us on. Or, turn us off. Used in writing, the sense of smell can leave a lasting mental image in a reader’s mind. “His breath smelled of dirty ashtrays and cheap whiskey and his clothing smelled of dead fish and rotting sea weed.” By simply describing the smells, does the sentence above give you a mental, visual image of the character, possibly the setting?
Needless to say, some people have a stronger sense of smell than others. There are those who can name a wine and vintage by the aroma alone, a flower by the scent, or the name a perfume by the fragrance. Is the ability purely physical, or a refined skill that can be learned and enhanced? I’m not sure how effective attempting to strengthen your sense of smell would be, beyond making a concentrated effort to pay closer attention to the pleasant scents or unpleasant odors around you.
Exercise 1: How long has it been since you took the time to take pleasure in the scents around you? Go to the mall and stop by the cosmetic counters. Check out various perfume/cologne scents and take note of how they make you feel. Are some over-powering? Do you prefer subtle? Do you prefer a light floral scent or an earthy musk scent?
Next, try the men’s counter. Is there an aftershave or scent that you like on a man? Is there one that totally turns you off? Why? Does it remind of you of someone? Is there a scent that you associate with anyone in particular? For example: Old Spice, your father or grandfather - Stetson, an old boyfriend, etc.
In my book I’ll Be Seeing You, the heroine is an artist who was blinded in a freak accident and had her vision restored with a cornea transplant. In the scene below, see how Lyssa Ryan’s other senses became stronger to compensate for the loss of vision.
Laying quietly and listening to the sounds in the corridor outside her room, Lyssa attempted to judge the time. It was relatively quiet. There was a ding indicating that someone had rung for a nurse. She could hear the squeak-squeak-squeak of rubber soled shoes against the tile flooring and indistinguishable words from lowered voices in the direction of the nurses’ station. All in all, the sounds told her very little. The time could be anywhere between the time she went to sleep and six-thirty in the morning. Activity picked up around six-forty-five prior to the seven A.M. shift change, followed closely thereafter by the clickety-click clatter of wheels from the carts carrying the breakfast trays. Accompanying the sound would be the aroma emanating from the food trays.
Lyssa’s rehab therapist told her that with most people, their other senses became more acute to compensate for the loss of one. In her case, the heightened sense of smell had been a less than pleasant acquisition. She was now acutely aware of odors she hadn’t noticed before. While in the hospital, Lyssa found the smell of antiseptic mingled with the aroma of multiple food choices less than appetizing, to the point of nauseating.
One of the most disconcerting aspects of her sightless state, beyond the obvious, was the inability to distinguish day from night and as such, to gauge the passage of time which seemed to stretch out before her like a deep, dark, endless tunnel.
Exercise 2: Take a stroll through a flower shop or garden. Smell the flowers. Try to detect the differences between the fragrance of each flower. Do you find certain scents calming? Do certain scents evoke pleasant or unpleasant feelings or memories?
How do scents heighten the senses during love making? That one is a bit harder for me. Going through my material I’ve found few instances where I’ve used the sense of smell during the actual act. Something I need to work on in the future. However, the visual effect and smell of scented candles go a long way to help set the mood for romance. Does your partner wear a scent that you associate with him/her? Do you use a special scent to entice when you are in the mood for love?
I’m sure we’ve all read stories where someone comments that a room or bedding smelled of sex. Is there a lingering, detectable scent after sex? Would you be able to recognize the scent for what it was? I’m not sure I would. Nevertheless, the description, “smelled of sex” brings vivid images to my mind of what went on in the bed, in that room.
Exercise 3: You’ll love this one. Again, go shopping. Purchase new bath supplies in a scent you haven’t tried before; soap, bubble bath or bath salts, etc. Get some scented candles to match. Set the scene. Turn off the lights and light the candles. Lay back and have a long, luxurious, soak. Lose yourself in the warmth and the fragrance surrounding you.
We can’t talk about the sense of smell relating to sexual desire without mentioning pheromones. Some believe pheromones are the key to "love at first sight." Hummmmm? Pheromones do not have a detectable scent but are in fact a natural, air-borne chemical hormone that is picked up by the olfactory membrane in the nose and in turn, is said to stimulate the limbic region of the brain, also known as the "Seat of Emotions." This area of the brain is responsible for our emotions and passionate desires.
There are a lot of perfumes on the market which claim to have a human sex pheromone base and promise to attract the opposite sex. Do they really work? If you’ve tried it with success, be sure to let us know and well all run out and buy it.
In writing - After I’ve completed the first draft of a book, one entire revision is done to add description, finding places where I can apply the uses of the senses to add depth to a scene.
In real life – working to develop your 5 senses and focusing on them while making love will not only enhance your own pleasure, but in the pleasure you give you lover as well.
If you try any of the exercises above and are surprised by the results, please feel free to post a comment.