How to write scents and smells in an enticing way

This is probably one of the weirder topics I’ll make during my time on the forum, but I desperately need help with this.

I want to make sure I incorporate all five senses in my writing because I feel like it adds more dimension and makes immersion easier, but for the life of me, I cannot describe smells in an interesting way. This is particularly a problem when I’m attempting to describe men’s cologne or natural smells. Despite having smelled both nature and men throughout my life, I cannot describe them beyond “it smells woodsy” or “he smelled good.”

Since neither of those descriptions are interesting and/or sexy to read, I’d love to get some advice on how to better describe smells in ways that make readers feel something.


Show what the smell is doing…

  1. The lingering stench from the outhouse is spoiling the beach party.

  2. Scrunching her nose at the ripe odors coming from your bedroom, your houseguest looks at you wild-eyed.

  3. The dish has complementary aromas of spices mingling to present a culinary feast for the nose.

If you want more, we can bounce things off the wall in a PM…



Lol anyway, I think it depand on the smell and the context . I don’t think ‘smell’ need to be ‘Sexy’ . Since if I think of a smell like ‘Home cooked meal’ smell…it give you the feeling of safelty, homey, memories of childhood . Now one can say, '‘well I like her smell and it turn me on’ but again, the smell ‘Evoke’ those reactions but isn’t the sole instigator for them…since someone else with similar smell won’t make you turned on…(at least thats what I think)…

Inserting the five sense, now that’s ambitious! :smiley:

Anyway, that’s what I can think of for now…good luck! :wink:


As a reader, I find it best if it’s just simple.

“The smell of his cologne reminds me of fresh lavender, and I don’t notice that I’ve leaned much closer into him.”

Or something like that. It’s just a personal preference, because I don’t like things to be too wordy.


Try to think about where the smell reminds you of, maybe? Like “He smelled like the woods after a summer rain: sweet and earthy and intoxicating.” Maybe also look up a list of adjectives that could describe smell (I’m sure Tumblr has a list somewhere)


Pick up the book Perfume!

This is a pet peeve of mine!

Complimentary means they give you nice compliments!

Complementary means they go well together.


This. Smell is very, very strongly tied to memory. We associate a lot with smells, and personally I do find it hard to describe it beyond a) comparison to X, which probably vary from person to person and b) a general impression, like what has been mentioned here. :relaxed:

I suppose a) is something you can, to some degree, convey through a MC’s thoughts, but it does vary from person to person. So, b) feel safer for a general appeal/appal. :grin:


When describing a smell, I like to include a few useful details:

  1. Strength. How noticeable is the smell? Useful adjectives include overpowering, faint, pungent, and rich.

  2. General category. How would you classify the smell? Useful adjectives include sweet, floral, fruity, earthy, and spicy.

  3. Specific comparison. What does it smell like? For instance, cologne might smell like strawberries, lemongrass, leather, or cinnamon.

  4. Memory. What does it remind your character of? It could remind them of the cookies their grandmother baked or the park where they played as a child.

  5. Reaction. It never hurts to have the character explicitly give their opinion of the smell. Useful adjectives include delightful, intoxicating, delectable, and refreshing.

Then, you can mix and match which details you want. The resulting description could be “He smelled vaguely sweet, like cinnamon and honey” or “The forest smelled refreshingly of pine needles and wet earth, reminding me of early morning hikes as a child.”

Bonus: Smell is a great connection to memory, so it can be nice when a smell rubs off on the main character. After an amorous encounter, they might find themself smelling like coffee or lavender. After a bonfire, they might be smelling smoke on their clothes for hours or even days.


Fixed … thank you for pointing that out :slight_smile:

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well i for one am glad someone else asked :sweat_smile: if it isn’t food, i can only barely describe smells. and even with food smells, my bourgeois comes out and i basically only know how to describe those by breaking down the potential ingredient list and likely cooking method. way too much info and not at all useful for my writing lol

so thanks, @trevers17 :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: and extra thanks to @unpeachthepeaches. i can see myself making use of those writing tips for other senses, too! i bookmarked the heck out of that post ^ ^


Dude, lean into that. I love competency porn — have it from the perspective of a character who is super into cooking and CAN break down the food into those components! Go into detail! Get crazy!