Thursday 27 May 2010

You can't smell a colour? Why? (+ new contest winner!)

Says who?

I had a sentence in my ms, that referred to a room being filled with the scent of red.

Ok. EVERYONE, who read my ms told me to take it out. 'You can't smell red, you can't smell colours ...' What ever happened to poetic licence?

If you COULD smell red, what do you imagine it would smell like?

So, here's my question for you ... Reading this idea out of context, what do you think red might be referring to? What is the first thing that comes to mind when you imagine what red might possibly smell like? Then, tomorrow I'll tell you what I was referring to.

And ... the new winner of my contest is ...

Mary McDonald


Oh yeah, and what do you think of my mock book cover in my side bar?


  1. Are those people insane? That is the best line I have ever heard.

    When I think of the scent of red, I think of passion, roses, fire, food, bullfighting (yes, I know), blood, tomatoes. I suppose I would have to read the previous few sentences to put a finger on it.

    And I love your cover! Great post!

  2. Ooh, I love that line... Wouldn't smelling red be sort of like seeing red? I would imagine it's a angry, sharp sort of stench.

  3. Yea, I am a crime guy so smelling red would lead me to think of blood.

  4. First of all you can smell colors and touch sounds, it even can occur in real life (it's called synesthesia, or hallucinating on drugs) so whoever made those ridiculous comments is very ill informed.

    That being said even if such a thing didn't exist it's great writing and powerful imagery, so forget the naysayers, I say!

  5. Hmm... interesting thought. I love the idea though - poetic license all the way, my advice is keep it in. :) Of course, I haven't even read the sentence, so I guess my advice may not be the best.
    To me, and I don't know why, the smell of red seems sort of... oppressive, heavy. Very tangible (which is why I think it works). My completely random out of the blue guess would be... a really hot summer day. I'm sure I'm wrong, but I'm thinking 'sticky fruits on fingers' smell, campfires and burgers smell, leaves drying in the sunshine smell. Maybe with a darker undertinge, like a heavy smoke, as well.
    Weird, right? :)
    I'm dying of curiousity, though!

  6. First, I LOVE your mock book cover! Great work!!!

    Second, when I think red I think about blood but I'm not sure what that would SMELL like.

    I suppose it could also be a chilli pepper, spicy smell. Can't wait to hear how you used it.

  7. Awesome cover and I love that line! When I think of seeing red there are many options...

    Passion and roses, or even anger...I get a great visual image without even knowing the storyline.

  8. Love the book cover:) We were on the same page AGAIN seeing as I created a pretend book cover for todays' post too.

    As far as what red would smell like...I'd say spicy, hot, peppery, firey, or cinnamon, maybe peppermint...

  9. Of course you can smell colours. How can you not?

    Red to me comes in two shades - one is the red tending to orange with smells of heat and a pure fire (not a bonfire fire with smoke that clogs up the nostrils), the other is the maroon-red which smells like a mildly scented rose flower and reminds me or romance.

  10. Love the mock book cover!!! Looks awesome!

    I'm with most of your commentors!! I think Piedmont Writer said it best "ARE THOSE PEOPLE INSANE?" I think it's great, I personally wouldn't cut it!

    YAY to Mary!!!! Congratulations, what a great win!

  11. To me the smeel of red would be beautiful red English roses.


  12. When I read this, it reminded me a movie I saw a long time ago. I don't remember the name, but someone was teaching blind person the "taste" and "touch" of certain colors. Like was cold like ice. White was cotton (like fluffy clouds) Red was hot, which is what I picture your room being.


  13. Oh, cool book cover, btw. ;-)


  14. Red: passion, lust, yes, but how about longing for the simplicity of childhood- it's a primary colour?

  15. I like the cover!

    Red makes me think of heat - and heavy humidity does have a smell.

  16. Smelling red makes me think cinnamon or something peppery.

  17. Wow! I won! Thanks so much. :-)

    I wrote a short thing for a contest on another site called the color of pain, so I'm with you on the poetic license thingy. ;-) Btw, the color was red. hehe

  18. I agree with Piedmont Writer!! From war to roses and love, red evokes emotion, passion, and feeling. I'd have to see the sentence in context but thus far, it works. About your book cover, my first impression was of a hippie whose passion died. Don't know if that's good or not. Anyway, great post!

  19. Absolutely you can smell red. Just as you can smell green.

    Some of this is conditioned by marketing. Everyone knows purple is grape, red is cherry, orange is orange, etc.

    The smell of red would probably be a spicy, vibrant smell like a mixture of apple-cinnamon candles and heavy perfume. I'm imagining a room with red walls and expensive furniture, with some sort of lingering scent like that, or a woman in a red dress whom you are aware of by her scent before you actually turn and see her.

  20. Regarding the book cover, I think the art is kind of cool, but not inspiring. Rather gloomy. Combined with the title, my first thought would be of a dead mouse in the corner of a dirty bedroom.

    But I think your tastes are more literary than mine, so take that with a grain of salt.

  21. Cinnamon is good! Blood also came to mind. (And I don't even write books like that!)

  22. Two images:

    1-sweetness, a sugary scent of roses mingling with the warmth of candlelight.

    2-blood, oozing from some crevasse of some poor soul...or the bad guy, which is good, right?

    Book jacket--so YOU.

  23. I didn't read the comments above - didn't want to be colored (haha - I kill myself).

    That line is AWESOME! I love it! For me, it would depend on the mood/setting. If it were an eerie or tense part, I'd think of blood. If it were romantic, probably a scented candle (apple or cinnamon).

    I love the mock cover, too.

  24. I love that! don't remove it, don't don't don't!!! It reminds me of passion, anger, or depending on the situation- flowers..

  25. Congrats to Mary! And I like the book cover. Makes me want to read it. :)

  26. I like the line. Out of context, it means an angry feeling is about the room. I think of a dark, sweaty, and foreboding presence.

    As for the cover, I like it as well :)

  27. I like the line.
    I think colours can have smells. Red always remind me of heat, fire and roses.

  28. Well, my first thought was that red would smell like blood, which probably means I should seek help...

    But really, if red smells like blood, then red smells dangerous, throbbing, like copper, urgent, important.

  29. I think the context is essential when you throw out a line like that. It can hit the mark perfectly, or it can be just confusing, depending on what came before. In your story, does the color red have a strong and clear connection to a specific thing (whether that's blood, fruit, roses, or anything else)? In that case, it could be a poignant description.

    But it does need that context, or at least, there needs to be other synesthetic-type descriptions in the story, or else it might stick out as confusing and out of place. People with synesthesia don't match the same colors to sounds, scents, etc. It varies by person. So if you throw out "smells like red" without any context, you'll have one person thinking of strawberries and another thinking of roadkill!

    The book cover is a nice design. I would be careful of the dark window frame obscuring the middle of the title text. But the overall mood is clear, and the composition is pleasing.

  30. LOVING everyone's ideas!!! Whoo-hoo! You've all put me to shame! Crikey! ahhhh well ...

    Genie: Tomorrow I'll be posting it in context. I just wanted to get first thoughts before I did. Re the book cover, I'm glad you like it. Have a look what it spells vertically in the dark frame of the window ... 'ded'. :)

  31. Blood. Red would smell like blood. Grotesque, but that's what I think of. I like your mock cover!

  32. Another vote for red smelling like blood, even though I think blood smells like metal (since it contains iron).

  33. Yes I wish I could say something original but it is blood for me too! Though stale blood..

    I absolutely LOVE the mock cover.. very clever with the "DED"

    hope all is well

  34. I'm with the herd here - I say definitely keep it in. License to write how you think = VOICE. And I'm all about yours!! (I love the book cover, too). Thanks for voting on the contest question at my blog, too :D

  35. I like the idea of the scent of red.

    I guess I think of cinnamon, sulphur, peppers and copper...sort of spicy and metalic...

    I can't wait to see the line in context.

  36. Great question! To me red smells like a barbecue. :) Looking forward to finding out what you meant!

  37. Are you synesthetic like me? Of course you can smell red! To me, red smells spicy like potpourri, but not floral. It's a sweet, musky scent.

  38. love the book cover!

    And just off the top of my head, red smells like roses and blood.

  39. hmm. ok well i'm an action junkie so the first thing that comes to mind is BLOOK! Yikes! But COOL! lol Then Strawberries would pop into my mind, and I'd become hungry. Hmm then bricks... IDK why, it just does. lol. Sorry you can't take my challenge but I understand! :)

  40. AlliAllo ~
    Right on!
    In my opinion, any truly sensitive and creative person should be able to not only smell colors, but taste them, feel them, and hear them.

    Now it may not be that every sensitive and creative person is going to interpret all of the colors in exactly the same way, but I'd be willing to bet that there would be surprisingly more uniformity than any non-sensitive and non-creative persons could have ever imagined.

    For me - without giving this much thought, but spouting it just off the top of my mind - I'd probably describe the color red as being somewhat heavy and dank - on the musty side. Not totally overpowering yet noticeably unpleasant. I could remain in a room that smelled red if need be, but I'm going get out of it for some fresh air at pretty much my first opportunity.

    Along the same lines, for decades, I have been telling people that letters of the alphabet have colors. Some folks think that's a crazy concept but a lot of other folks agree immediately and have often perceived the letters to have the same or similar colors to what I perceived.

    Let's try a short test just for the heck of it:

    Including the so-called "non-colors" white and black, what colors would you ascribe to these letters?

    A - R - S - T - U - V - X - Z

    This was a very interesting Blog Bit, AlliAllo. This is the kindza stuffs I dig!

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens

  41. Stephen: That's an interesting idea! Ok, lets's see ...
    A = grey
    R = maroon
    S = yellow
    T = lime green
    U = olive green
    V = orange
    X = cream/tan
    Z = black
    Do you want explanations as to why ?

  42. Smell of red, eh? I think without context that IS hard... because in a scary, angry context, it might be blood. In a happier one, maybe cinnamon. Or if not a THING WITH AN ODOR, then maybe anger--aggression.

    I can think of a lot of smells I would ascribe red to but going the other direction is a little hard...

    OH! I wanna play this game!

    A Yellow
    R Red
    S Also red
    T Blue
    U Gray
    V Purple
    X Silver
    Z Black

    Do I win? (probably not--my perceptions are wonky)

  43. That line is perfect. Smelling or tasting color can definitely happen in real life (synesthesia).

    A - Yellow
    R - Red
    S - Blue
    T - Brown
    U - Orange
    V - Green
    X - Black
    Z - White

  44. Congrats to Mary!

    Smell of red is grossing me out. It's blood or something really... liver-y.

  45. AlliAllo ~
    OK, this is super-cool that some others have also decided to play the alphabet/color game as well as your red/scent game.

    So, I will hold off on revealing my own perceptions of the letter colors until sometime tomorrow after you've posted your idea about the smell of red.

    I will say, however, that although we are all in stark disagreement on some of the letters, there are others (perhaps more than one might expect by random chance) in which we seem to perceive in the same way.

    And yes, tomorrow I will definitely want to read the "explanations" of why you went with certain colors.

    I will say that I find some of the colors of letters easier to discern than others, and I don't believe it is necessarily connected to word associations beginning with that letter. But we'll see tomorrow how it all plays out.

    This was a really fun Blog Bit idea, AlliAllo.

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens

  46. I like that line. I don't see anything wrong with it, but if, while reading your MS it through me off, I'd ask about it.

    But there is nothing wrong with the line.

    So Red, to me, would smell like fire, strawberries, flowers, things like that.

  47. It seems interesting, but I don't think it really makes sense.
    I imagine something strong and acrid, but with a hint of a flowery scent.

  48. Congratulations, Mary!

    If red were a smell, I'd think of roses or poppies. But if I weren't thinking the obvious, it was would be a bold, overwhelming scent.

  49. Of course colours have a scent, although some are more obvious than others, I guess.

    Red, I think, would kind of depend on what shade of red...lighter is more sweet in my mind, darker more spicy...maybe with a hint of chilli.

  50. My first thought when I read it was blood.

    I love the mock cover - it would make me pick it up :)

  51. I imagined the scent was hot and sticky, and the fact that red had an odor gave it presence, personified it somehow.

  52. Red reminds me of something strong and sensual, romantic, passion. I would even include incenses in the picture lol

    And there are people who can actually see smells, and tste colours, I saw it on discovery I think. It ws a series called Super human or something.

  53. OK, I’m back.
    Obviously, there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to ascribing colors to letters of the alphabet; each person will perceive things in their own individual way. But here are the colors I associate with these letters:

    A: Red
    R: Deep Red
    S: Yellow
    T: Medium Grey
    U: Orange
    V: Blue
    X: Black
    Z: Black

    Here’s the collective perception:
    A: Red, Grey, Yellow (2)
    R: Red (4)
    S: Yellow (2), Red, Blue
    T: Grey, Green, Blue, Brown
    U: Orange (2), Green, Gray
    V: Blue, Orange, Purple, Green
    X: Black (2), Cream/Tan, Silver,
    Z: Black (3), White

    Now if I break it down into just two categories, hot and cool colors:
    A: Hot – 3 / Cool – 1
    R: Hot – 4
    S: Hot – 3 / Cool – 1
    T: Cool – 4
    U: Hot -2 / Cool – 2
    V: Hot – 1 / Cool – 3
    X: Hot – 2 / Cool – 2
    Z: Hot – 1 / Cool – 3

    It’s quite possible that some of our associations are word related. For instance, Did “R” score 4 “Reds” because Red begins with R? Did “S” score 2 “Yellows” because we think of the Sun – which begins with the letter S – as yellow? Maybe.

    But there are plenty of letters for which I strongly ascribe colors although I am unaware of any word associations.

    I would say A: Red; B: Green; C: Blue; D: Brown; E...
    E is a tougher one for me to find the color. Sometimes I sense a letter’s color powerfully – like “D” is definitely Brown for me – and other times the color is vague and I really have to search to find it. E is like that for me; there are multiple colors that I could probably convince myself are appropriate for E.

    But what I find odd is that when I use “e” in the word “grey” it absolutely imparts to the word the color grey. Most Americans spell that color “gray”, while the British usually write it “grey”. Although I’m American, for as long as I can remember, I have spelled that word with an “e” solely because when I do, in my mind, it turns the word “grey” the very color that the word is supposed to represent. Whereas if I were to spell the word “gray”, like most other Americans do, now my mind perceives the word as a hot color – yellow or red.

    Some letters are clear to me: D, H and N are Brown; M is Pink. And although Pink starts with “P”, that letter is Green to me.

    I have never done this, but I think an interesting experiment would be to go through the entire alphabet, ascribing a color to each letter, and then do it again the next year and the year after that. Do this for 3 to 5 years and then afterwards, compare all of the slips of paper to determine how consistent or inconsistent one’s perception of letters and their colors has remained.

    Anyway, thanks to those who played along.

    AlliAllo, now please explain why you chose the colors you did, if you don’t mind.

    ~ “Lonesome Dogg” McD-Fens

  54. Stephen: How interesting is you interpretation!!! LOVE it!

    Ok, here's my logic (or imagination)
    A = grey (because there is a line, stuck in between two other lines, which to me represents grey storm clouds on a hot day clogging up the atmosphere and making me feel trapped.

    R = maroon (wow - this is like yours! LOL - because R reminds me of purring and purring has a wholesome snuggling up on the couch sound)

    S = yellow (becasue it made me think of a sour lemon)

    T = lime green (becasue it made me think of a tangy lime)

    U = olive green (because you can sit inside this, like on a swing, and when I was a kid I used to make swings that hung from olive trees)

    V = orange (have not idea, first colour that came to me. I think I associate citrus colours with vexation, because of the way the sourness makes your throat constrict)

    X = cream/tan (because it reminds me of the shape I make in a newly opened can of paint with a stick when I begin to mix it. And the most common colour to paint walls with is either off-white or cream.)

    Z = black (makes me think of a dark superhero - perhaps 'zoro' :)

  55. AlliAllo ~
    Hmmm... That's really neat how we are able to associate colors with letters so easily and yet we arrive at those colors in very different ways.

    Your reasons for S and T make sense, and yet you come at them in a kind of oblique fashion. You get the color for U in a classic but fairly detailed "image association" manner. Interesting!

    I think you arrive at letter colors in a more conscious way than I do; my approach seems to originate more in the subconscious. In most cases, I really couldn't offer any explanation for why I think a letter is a certain color. I would answer, "It just is". Possibly I'm making similar associations but doing so at a level below my awareness.

    I think your explanation for Z being Black is also quite interesting. Although I didn't say so before, considering that 3 out of 4 of us ascribed Black to that letter, I also wondered if we were making a "Zorro" association.

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens

  56. It could be red hot cinnamon, I think... Amen, sister! I love poetic licensing and feel that everyone should have one in their wallet or purse, don't you???


  57. Be a rebel! Leave it in there!!

    When I think of red, I think desire, smells like sex?!

    Love the cover!

  58. Actually, there is an unusual condition in which the senses can become confused. I forget what the condition's called, but blue can taste. Middle C can smell, etc. I've envied the sensual input such people gain, but it's probably confusing sometimes, too. LOL I love the idea of red having a scent or taste. To me, it would be cinnamon, which is strange since cinnamon is brown. I think my reaction is because I hate red hots and cinnamon. LOL

  59. Smelling red makes me think of Christmas. Like cinnamon and cranberries. Mmmm....

    Congrats to Mary McDonald, and I LOVE the cover! So great!

  60. And p.s. To Victoria Dixon: I think that condition is called synesthesia. Fascinating stuff, eh?

  61. Yes! That's the one. Thanks, Jess. ;D

  62. EVERYONE told you to take it out?! I say leave it in; it makes for a gripping hook of words to keep your readers thinking. There's a point in one of my drafts where I talk about "Two cymbals of light clashed before his eyes." Cymbals aren't made of light, nor do they produce sensations detected by eyes. Yet I used the narrative to express the character's sense of confusion at that point in the story.

    Again - KEEP IT IN!


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