Sunday, January 15, 2006

Scratch n Sniff

Cats have smells.

I'm not just talking about flatulence, humming cat food and muddy paws. They have distinctive, unique scents that are theirs alone, irrespective of what substance they've recently been rolling in. They're very faint, and you have to bury your face in their flank and inhale several times to catch it. It also helps if you zero in on their neck and shoulders, where the scent appears to be strongest, and if you're a woman, since women have much more developed senses of smell.

Kittens don't have smells - they just have kitten-smell... but I am happy to report that last night we established that Cleo and Chrissy have grown into their proper grown-up Cat Smells.

Cleo - burnt toffee. Chrissy - warm newspaper.

This is not as odd as it sounds. We're quite pleased to have a cat with a toffee-smell, cats personal scents aren't always as sweet or appealing.

Merlin, for instance, always smelled faintly of sun-warmed concrete. Even if he'd been indoors for weeks. Piggy, God bless her murderous little soul, hunting shrews in kitty heaven, always smelled quite strongly of fresh air and new mown hay. So refreshing and distinctive was this aroma, we had been known to pluck her to our faces, breathe deeply, and cry, "Piggy Outdoor Smell!" She's only one of our cats that ever actually had a scent so recognisable, we named it.

After much discussion with Husband, we distressingly found we couldn't remember what Geri smelled of. We have a memory of something warm and faintly spicy, and if smells have colours, I'm getting an amber warmth.... Minnie smells, oddly, of freshly laundered cotton, while poor Pippi has the embarassment of smelling like Old Woman's Talcum Powder. She is so ashamed.

So, to recap: Cleo - Toffee. Chrissy - warmed newspaper. Minnie- Cotton. Pippi - Old woman's talcum powder. Piggy - Piggy Outdoor Smell. Merlin - sunwarmed concrete. Geri - Amber.

Dredging the depths of my memory, my childhood cat, Smokie, smelled of... silk? Odd.

All amusements aside, cats aren't alone. Humans have distinctive scents, too. Although the Five Senses rule has attached itself to most authors output, now, I'm finding that many slap on a scent like ticking a box for eye colour. This heroine is brunette, green eyes, smells of strawberries. Or the scent becomes a symbol of what occupies their time. Cowboy smelling of horses, medic smelling of antiseptic, millionaire smelling of.... what, printer ink? Money?

All romance heroes and heroines seem to be fragranced from the same, limited pool. Raspberry lotion; roses; honey; chocolate; leather; horses; coffee, sweat.

Where is that distinctive, personal scent?

Once I cut out his after-shave-du-jour, shampoo and deodorant, Husband has a very slight builder's-rubble-and-fresh-ash-timber smell.

Odd, seeing as he isn't in construction. He works in retail, trek and travel clothing - stricly speaking he should smell of Gore-tex and uncrushable suiting.

My point is that people don't just smell of what they slap on, or what they work with. Everyone has a scent that is as unique as their personality.

What do your characters smell of?

8 Comments:

At 11:55 am, Blogger Emma Wayne Porter said...

Right now? They smell of scorched earth.

Kidding.

Well, not really. I haven't gotten to do the whole smell thing yet, and now I'm gonna be flitting between WIP and this blog, oh-so-careful not to use any of those words lol

 
At 3:29 pm, Blogger Sela Carsen said...

I've always tried to be very careful with scents -- not to use the tried and true lavendar, lemon, roses, etc. I had a heroine once who smelled of anise. Good thing the hero liked licorice candy. ;)

Maddox has a distinctive outdoor green and growing things musk. But he's a werewolf. Scent is vital for him.

The current characters haven't established a scent imprint yet, but I'm getting there.

 
At 12:36 pm, Blogger Biddy said...

Mmmm scents. So important.
We always know if Bella isn't well because she smells doggy, when she is well she smells of... hmmm I can't describe it. This means I must go back and check later.

I think I'm going to have to go back and re-think Mac's smell, make sure I'm not being cliche-y.
Good post!

 
At 2:21 pm, Blogger NotQuiteHere said...

cat sniffing...

I think the cat that just jumped on me smells of summer or possibly biscuits I cant make up my mind, neither can I get to the otherone to identify his smell. Hadn't thought of making sure characters had distinct smells. Though the girl in the peice I'm currently working on probably smells slightly of tobacco and 'outdoors' (that slightly cold, fresh air smell that's leaves and mud and not quite definable).

 
At 10:45 pm, Anonymous Kaitlin said...

My current heroine smells like a combination of cinnamon and vanilla.

My hero usually smells like a man; a combo of sweat and just that smell that you can't really describe, but it's totally masculine. All around a very yummy combo. :)

 
At 8:13 pm, Anonymous Danica said...

Now I feel like a terrible writer, LOL. I have to force myself to remember to use scent, because unless a person smells bad, I don't think about it. Actually, I'm allergic to so many things associated with scent, I've taken great pains to "unscent" everything around me. :( Okay, back to the scent board.

Anyone want a smelly dog who smells like smelly dog?

 
At 9:40 pm, Blogger Gabriele C. said...

I have smells in the surroundings, wet earth, blood, peat fire etc. but I tend to "forget" about people as long as not someone uses an expensive Roman perfume.

 
At 12:42 am, Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Funny, why does my comment only show up when I click "Post a comment" and not on the normal blog? Blogger having a moment again* *grr*

 

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