It smelled like pancakes outside this morning. Maple syrup and everything. It was drizzling, and I expected more petrichore, but I’ll take pancakes.
I like to drive with my window down, and the rain was light enough that I could. I pulled up to an intersection and noticed that I could smell cinnamon. It made me realize how much sensory detail we leave out of a character’s experience… we expect them to taste the blood in their mouths, feel the heartbeat in their chests, see the look in their lover’s eyes. Oftentimes we stop at sight, maybe feel, but precious few novelists will tell you how that mid-morning shower smelled to the characters. They might say petrichore, but how often is it pancakes?
I’ve always had a passion for weird and “wrong” descriptions. In middle school, I described a hospital room as smelling “pale” in a short story. My English teacher said that was wrong. Now I have the knowledge and lingo to know that I was using synaesthesia. Kinda. Even then I knew I was right, though I held my tongue.
If you want to tell me you can’t smell a pale smell, taste a soft flavor, or feel a bright pain… I want you to live honestly until you do. “Honestly” meaning that you use the words to describe your experience that you mean, not the right ones. Words are just placeholders for the things in our heads, and to think we’ve captured every smell-feel within the category of words we’d call “scents” is narrow-minded.
This is the best sensory advice I can ever give, though I’m a novice at feeling feels myself. Live honestly, use the wrong words, and stand up for yourself.