Often, in great fiction, the smell sneaks up on you, adding to a scene or thought with subtlety. Here are some great examples scent in the fiction genre.

proustMarcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past
“‘When from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more immaterial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls.”



DiamondHeadCecily Wong, Diamond Head
“Inside the car, it smells like hibiscus. It was his mother’s idea: something subtle, she told him, but fresh. Something alive. As the man pulls from his driveway he is grateful, just this once, for his mother’s meddling. He breathes in. Already, the sweet smell is working on his nerves.”



enchantedRene Denfeld, The Enchanted
“She has come to believe the homes of sad or hateful people smell different. When people have sadness or hate inside them, it comes out in a miasma. Dr. Hammond’s house smells like a form of slow poison has been hanging in the air for years. She has a sudden conviction that if she lifted all the furniture in his house she would find layers of squished black bugs underneath.”


JJJames Joyce, Ulysses
“Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine.”



AreYouThereGodJudy Blume, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
“We moved on the Tuesday before Labor Day. I knew what the weather was like the second I got up. I knew because I caught my mother sniffing under her arms. She always does that when it’s hot and humid, to make sure her deodorant’s working. I don’t use deodorant yet. I don’t think people start to smell bad until they’re at least twelve. So I’ve still got a few months to go.”


Jitterbug_PerfumeTom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
“There is little difference between the Zulu warrior who smeared his body with Lion’s fat and the modern woman who dabs hers with expensive perfume. The one was trying to acquire the courage of the king of beasts, the other is attempting to acquire the irresistible sexuality of flowers. The underlying principle is the same.”



girlPaula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train
“So when I closed my eyes, when I drifted into a half dream and found myself in that underpass, I may have been able to feel the cold and smell the rank, stale air, I may have been able to see a figure walking towards me, spitting rage, fist raised, but it wasn’t true.”



warmBodiesIsaac Marion, Warm Bodies
“As this happens, my sinuses ignite with a new smell, something similar to the life energy of the Living but also vastly different. It’s coming from Julie, it’s her scent, but it’s also mine. It rushes out from us like an explosion of pheromones, so potent I can almost see it.”



Jonathan_Franzen,_Purity,_coverJonathan Franzen, Purity
“But smell had also been heaven. Not outside the airport of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, where the wafts of cow shit from adjacent pastures mingled with the smellable inefficiencies of engines banned from California long before Pip was born; not in the Land Cruiser sure-handedly piloted by a taciturn Bolivian, Pedro, through diesel particulates on the city’s ring boulevards; not along the Cochabamba highway, where every half kilometer another brutally effective speed bump gave Pip a change to smell fruit rotting and things dying and be approached by the sellers of oranges and friend things who’d install the speed bumps in the first place; not in the swelter of the dusty road that Pedro veered onto after Pip had counted forty-six bumps (rompemuelles Pedro called them, her first new word in Spanish); not when they reached a ridge and headed down a narrow road as steep as anything in San Francisco, the noontime sun boiling plastic volatiles out of the Land Cruiser’s upholstery and vaporizing gasoline from the spare can in the cargo area; but when the road, after plunging through dry forest and through cooler woods half cleared for coffee plantings, finally bottomed out along a stream leading into a little valley more beautiful than any place Pip could have imagined: then the heaven had commenced. Two scents at once, distinct like layers of cooler and warmer water in a lake — some instantly flowering tropical tree’s perfume, a complex lawn-smell from a pasture that goats were grazing — flooded through her open window.”


emE.M. Forster, A Room With a View
“But, once in the open air, she paused.” Some emotion — pity, terror, love, but the emotion was strong — seized her, and she was award of autumn. Summer was ending, and the evening brought her odours of decay, the more pathetic because they were reminiscent of spring. That something or other mattered intellectually? A leaf, violently agitated, danced past her, while other leaves lay motionless.”