Since I've been in the writing trenches for a while now, I'm very aware when I'm reading along in someone else's book and I get to the moment when I'm pretty sure the author thought to herself: Ruh-roh, I need to involve all five senses, and I've mostly been doing sight and sound, with some texture thrown in here and there. Okay, quick--what does the love interest smell like? What do his kisses taste like? And then you get Romance Math. Which goes like this:
2A + B = sensory detail, where A is an actual smell or taste and B is a concept that one wouldn't usually associated with a smell or taste, the more unrelated, the better.
She tasted like strawberries, coffee and sunshine.
His scent was an unsettling mix of alcohol, breath mints and desperation.
Obviously, the two give us very different impressions about the characters, but ... are they really good writing? I guess we can argue that sunshine has a smell--we could walk outside on a spring day with our eyes closed and know it was sunny. But that's not really the sun we're smelling, is it? The scents we're getting are given off by the irises and crocuses (or should that be irides and croci?), mown grass, and sun-warmed earth. As for desperation ... yeah. Not sure what that smells like. SPAM, maybe?
As for the gun oil thing, which we see in a whole lot of romantic suspense, I once, in a moment of extreme gotta-sneeze, grabbed a rag off the nightstand on Arizona's side of the bed, and got a snootful of bike-chain lube. So I can tell you this from experience--snorting oil is Not Sexy.
Which isn't to say that I've never performed Romance Math. I'm as guilty as the next girl, though these days I try to keep it down to a dull roar. But at the same time, it can be fun to play with.
Like right now, I'm carrying the scents of decaf tea, protein bar and unbridled optimism for the week ahead. Arizona, on the other hand, smells of Coke Zero, Monday morning and sexy bedhead. And Pixel, who is currently purring in my lap, smells of kibble, contentment, and adorable sloth.
See? Smell plus smell plus something random, and you're a writer. So what's your romance math for today?