A white woman with curly hair and round glasses (the author) sitting in the sun, eyes closed, sniffs an open perfume oil bottle of BPAL's A Wet Moon, Putney Road
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The Write Scent: Noisy Goose Moon & A Wet Moon, Putney Road

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.

Noisy Goose Moon, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

Scent Description: This scent is a celebration of the most raucous, orneriest mating season in the animal kingdom. Down-soft vanilla marshmallow with a honking loud, irascible blast of white frankincense, banana, spiced rum, and sugar cane. Wear it when you’re feeling intimidating, aggressive, and cantankerously cute.

Scent Review: “Irascible” and “aggressive” prepared me to be blown over by banana, and in the bottle I absolutely am. Having said that, on the skin this is the gentlest banana I have ever worn (I can say ridiculous things like this, I have entertained three or four banana-centric perfume oils in my cabinet). I’m reminded of banana Laffy Taffy—a soft, vanillic banana candy, mellowed by the marshmallow here. I love the way the rum and the frankincense are playing together. It could almost, almost be a dessert, but the frankincense keeps it from going too foodie for me. It is cantankerously cute… This would be a fun sleep-time scent to get you out of an I’m-overtired sort of bad mood, I think.

Writing Prompts:

Non-fiction: What’s your most memorable encounter with a goose? (Everybody has one of these, right? The Goose Cautionary Tale? The Scared Straight Story, Featuring Goose?)

Fiction: Write a gentle goose. Tell a story that breaks the stereotype. Give a goose a moment of kindness—even a small one.  

A Wet Moon, Putney Road, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

Scent Description: Rain-slick amber, gaslight, and moss.

Scent Review: I am stunned, I am obsessed, I am in LOVE. How is there so much to sniff at packed into this seemingly simple motif? I wore this first out of my last BPAL purchase, and proceeded to wear it four more times in a row before testing anything else.

In the bottle, I get a sweet blast of felt-y, soft muskiness that reminds me of White Rabbit, but stronger, wilder, less restrained. I don’t really know what that association is—I guess it’s the amber doing a sweet-musk thing that reminds me of the honey and spilled tea in WR, and maybe the elements of the gaslight and moss are somehow reading as cloth-like, as linen?

It’s sweet, but not stuffy or cloying. It’s a little witchy, without being Gothic. It’s like dusk in warmer weather, when it’s been drizzling on and off, that fresh sweetness, more earthy-musky sweet than floral, a little humid, dark but not scary. It’s fresh from the moss, but not bitter or dirty.

The amber is like the golden throw of a streetlight over a wet street, exactly as intended. Sniffing up close when wet I get the moss very clearly underneath, but as it dries down and I smell up close I get more of a burning flame sweetness. I worried that the gaslight element would mean something oily, but this is just a pleasant fire smell, so light I only get it up close.

I need a back-up bottle of this. I almost never get back-ups. I am both a wet-outside-smells person and a campfire-smells person, and this somehow does both. It’s perfect.

Writing Prompts:

Non-fiction: write about a time when you found a thing you didn’t know you were looking for, that really set you right. It could be the first time you tried a hobby that you came to love. or the first time you went to a Ren faire that you now go to yearly, or the day you met your best friend.

Fiction: write about something happening down a little lane, on a quiet dusk, that nobody sees. If it were me, it would involve an animal—one that talks, and is part of a magical underworld we know not of—but that’s me. You may go a different way.

I wish you happy scent-inspired writing! And if you’re here because of your love of all things Gothic and scent-inspired, may I interest you in my debut? It’s a responsibly kinky, below-stairs Victorian Gothic Romance/Romantic Suspense called On Good Authority—in which a lady’s maid must teach a bad master the difference between servitude and surrender, confronting a dark desire for the footman along the way.

It’s like if you crossed Tess of the D’Urbervilles with the film Secretary. If this sounds like your jam, I would deeply appreciate the add on Goodreads, or you can pre-order for the book’s release (October 11, 2022).

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