In writing, this can be difficult but worth while as you dig into details that can broaden the horizon of your manuscripts.
Think about it. If your were asked to portray a spring day, after a steamy fall of rain, how would you accomplish this?
Some would put themselves in a mental picture of this and dig into what their senses were telling them. I know that I would because I'd never do it justice if I didn't.
Here's how some authors described smells: (From Goodreads)
“This morning, Tegus welcomed me again with an arm clasp and cheek touch. I wasn't startled this time, and I breathed in at his neck. How can I describe the scent of his skin? He smells something like cinnamon-- brown and dry and sweet and warm. Ancestors, is it wrong for me to imagine laying my head on his chest and closing my eyes and breathing in his smell?”
― Shannon Hale, Book of a Thousand Days
“Vinegar: that's what fear smells like.”
― Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad
“I emitted some civetlike female stink, a distinct perfume of sexual wanting, that he had followed to find me here in the dark.”
― Janet Fitch, White Oleander
“Outside the bus the smell of sulphur hit Bond with sickening force. It was a horrible smell, from somewhere down in the stomach of the world.”
― Ian Fleming, Diamonds Are Forever
Here are examples of what I did, from Andromeda:
I smelled him. It was a blend of polished wood and cigars, but much older.
I gathered the scents of sin, blood, and fear from several miles away as I became aware of my surroundings.
I stepped closer to him and breathed in his scent. He smelled of soy sauce, strong tea and unfiltered cigarettes.
I need to work on mine and plan to use it as an exercise toward future works.
See if this helps any of you:
Words to describe smell:
acidy, acrid, antiseptic, aromatic, balmy, biting, bitter, briny, burnt, citrusy, comforting, corky, damp, dank, distinctive, earthy, fishy, flowery, fragrant, fresh, fruity, gamy, gaseous, heavy, lemony, medicinal, metallic, mildewed, minty, moldy, musky, musty, odorless, peppery, perfumed, piney, pungent, putrid, reek, rose, rotten, savoury, scented, sharp, sickly, skunky, smoky, sour, spicy, spoiled, stagnant, stench, stinking, sulphur, sweaty, sweet, tart, tempting, vinegary, woody, yeasty.
Can you show me a better piece of something that you've written to describe a particular smell? I'd love to see what you come up with.