Scrap Pile: Life Without Smell

At the moment I’m working on the first of my planned six books for the year (I decided I wasn’t getting enough done and challenged myself to get six first drafts ready by December 31st – sort of doing NaNoWriMo stretched over two months, six times in one year, except that I’ve beaten NaNo in five days and ten hours and have no interest in doing it again).

The book is writing advice (this is somewhat ironic given that I’m not published or making money yet) and I had a lovely metaphor running through it. Unfortunately, I had to excise some significant portions of analogous material because it was simply getting too complicated and too detailed. I wrote this section for the analogy and I didn’t want to have to lose it completely, so while it will never be in the book I decided to share it here. It was in a section on characterisation and was going to be an example in discussion of less obvious ways that character’s can have physical imperfections. It was also a really long paragraph.

 Life Without Smell:

Have you ever imagined life without a sense of smell? What about with a diminished sense of smell? Someone gives you flowers and enthusiastically mentions the odour, so you shove your nose right up into the centre and use the petals for cover as you try to school your face into an appropriate enjoying-the-smell-expression, because you have no idea what that’s actually like. You eat the same, often bland, foods all the time without getting bored of them, because you don’t really notice the taste anyway. You wear too much perfume or deodorant because you have no idea how much is enough for other people to notice. You can’t tell if the person you’re talking to has or has not bathed in a few days, so you make the wrong call on whether they’re friendly or creepy. You can’t smell pheromones (presuming they even have an effect) either, so if you’re heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual or homosexual you can (but don’t always) suffer from a distressingly decreased libido, while if you’re asexual you don’t really notice beyond being irritated by people who assume getting a sense of smell would “cure” you of your orientation (despite there being no causal relationship between anosmia and asexuality). You’re dependent on other people and use by dates with food that could have gone off but isn’t visibly so. You find it confusing when characters and people describe loving someone else’s scent (and you spend much of your life too embarrassed to ask if people really can naturally smell like vanilla and cinnamon like in all the romance scenes in stories). You write a scene set in a restaurant and describe everything but the odour lavishly – then your beta or editor complains that the whole thing seems unrealistic, either because of the lack or without explanation, and you can’t understand it because you described everything that was there …the idea that you should have described any odour at all isn’t one that occurs to you until someone else mentions that it was missing. That’s life without smell.



One thought on “Scrap Pile: Life Without Smell

  1. Pingback: Scrap Pile 5 – Portraying Phobias | Inspector Faerie

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