Using scent to tell a story — scent reviews and inspired prompts for fiction and non-fiction writers.
What’s This? I use perfume oil to inspire character, setting, mood, and so on as I write. To share that love with other writers and scent enthusiasts, I post reviews for perfume oils that include fiction/non-fiction writing prompts inspired by the scent. You don’t need to buy the oils to play along, but I do my best to post about oils that are currently available, in case the mood should take you.
Alischereshasa, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (a new blend BPAL has made through the creative combining of three of their general catalog blends, detailed below)
An imp’s worth of Alice stuffed into a 5ml of Rakshasa plopped into Scheherazade’s mother bottle. (Alice: Milk and honey with rose, carnation and bergamot. Rakshasa: Sandalwood with rose and patchouli. Scheherazade: Saffron and Middle Eastern spices swirled through sensual red musk.)
This is the best red musk I have ever smelled. It’s so sweet, and bright red to my mind. Like candy-apple red (without smelling like candy or an apple, mind you; it just feels glittery and makes me feel optimistic.) It’s like Alice grew up, but she’s just as prone to flights of fancy as she was when she went to Wonderland. This could very easily go sexy, with the spices and the sandalwood and the patchouli on top of the musk, but it doesn’t lean that way for me. It’s more… creative? It’s one of those BPAL scents that smells like magic—except, whereas my brain will go, “this one is a potion,” my brain is this time going, “this is someone actively casting a spell.” But it’s not a mean spell, or even a particularly practical one. This is a just for fun spell, cast by an adult who still sees the value in play. An actor might like this. Or, you know, a writer.
Non-fiction: What have you carried with you out of childhood? In other words, in what way are you still who you were then? What do you hope you never lose or forget?
Fiction: Write a scene in which adults are playing. Could be a game of horseshoes in a backyard, could be a BDSM scene, could be a rehearsal for a show. Pick your play.
Dreams Shape the World, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (inspired by Neil Gaiman’s NEVERWHERE)
Amorphous streams and sparks of lavender fancies drifting through a moonlit musk, given form on this plane by fossilized amber and sweet agarwood.
At first, on wet, this is strong, herbal lavender with a musty, damp sharpness from what I think is the agarwood. Maybe the musk, too. It starts to soften almost immediately—or, maybe it’s more accurate to say it starts to crumble. It’s powdery-sweet all of a sudden, but not in a bad way. Probably the amber playing with the lavender. But it’s not too much, because underneath we still have the agarwood and the musk, keeping things balanced. This reminds me of everything I’ve ever loved about lavender-forward bath bombs from LUSH, but without feeling quite so loud and youthful as they sometimes can. This is less playful, more dreamy. The smell has a winding, meandering quality, but instead of exploring dark woods metaphorical or literal, we’re up in the clouds at twilight. I really worried I wouldn’t like this, because I was afraid of the amber, but it’s really wonderful. The musk and the agarwood take it from a fun idea to a whole, fleshed out persona. This isn’t just a scent for naptime, is what I’m saying. This could be somebody’s signature scent. That person feels very periwinkle inside, probably. (I sometimes feel periwinkle inside. I will wear this lots.)
Non-fiction: What color are your thoughts or feelings or ideas? If that’s too big a question to answer generally, then how about today? Or how about whatever the last big idea or feeling you had to wade through? And, meanwhile, what color is (or was) the stuff going on outside yourself? What’s the border look and feel like? Harmonious, all together, or a bit discordant?
- If you were more yourself than you are—if you just did and said all the things you wished you could in your dreams or fantasies—who would you be? Pick your favorite three traits, say, turn them all up to eleven, and turn that person into a character. Remember that weaknesses enlarge along with strengths, and use this hyper-you as the protagonist in a story.
- Write about what happens up in the clouds at twilight.
Auxilium, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
Scent Description: Rose otto, black spruce, ylang ylang, hyssop, lemon peel, cedarwood, and myrrh.
This starts out as an almost tart rose. I assume that’s the lemon peel chiming in. It’s a potent rose, with a soft, magical quality that comes, for me, from the myrrh, but that tartness… It makes me think of shattered glass. Rose-tinted shattered glass.
As it dries, the tartness goes away. I smell the hyssop, I think, but I wouldn’t say that this is ylang ylang forward, or very cedar-y either. These things are there, but they’re not loud like they can be. I’m left with a rose that is neither fresh-cut nor overly incense-y. It’s almost got a chill to it, like… a rose slushie?
Non-fiction: Write about a moment that shattered your rose-tinted glasses.
Fiction: Other than glasses, what other sorts of glass might have a rose-tint? Why, and how, might that glass get broken? Write a scene of that destruction, or its aftermath.