As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer.
When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story.
Description: Being able to detect even trace amounts of odors and identify them.
Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: Good sinus health, a strong memory, past exposure to many different scents
Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: curiosity, focus, observant, aware, tolerant, adventurous…
Required Resources and Training: There are two parts to having a strong sense of smell: being able to detect scents, and being able to identify them. When it comes to being able to smell different odors, people are usually born strong or weak in this area. Someone wishing to strengthen their sniffer…
Associated Stereotypes: People who can smell things really well are often the ones with the largest noses. And they’re audibly sniffing; everywhere they go, other people can hear them constantly scenting the air.
Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:
- When a toxic element is in the environment
- When someone is about to be poisoned
- When an item or person has gone missing and must be tracked…
Resources for Further Information:
How to Sharpen Your Sense of Smell
Improve Your Sense of Smell Without Using Your Nose
Quiz: Facts About the Sense of Smell
Related Talents and Skills: Enhanced Taste Buds
Talents and skills not only make our characters stand out, they often help them attain their goals. So choosing them strategically can greatly enhance both the character and the story.
If this is something you’d like to learn more about, you can find the entries in their entirety at One Stop For Writers, where all our thesauruses are cross-referenced and linked for easy navigation. If you’re interested in seeing a free sampling of the Talent and Skill Thesaurus and our other descriptive collections, head on over and register at One Stop!
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.
:Donna Marie says
Oh, boy, Becca, with me being highly chemically sensitive and my nose on overdrive for over 20 years, this is something I know a LOT about. It makes my life miserable in many ways, but the one thing that’s good is that I’m like a hounddog in the sense that I can smell dangerous things before anyone else, so yes—it’s a “talent” that can be of benefit! 🙂
BECCA PUGLISI says
It’s like a blessing and a curse, eh? I bet you would’ve made a good detective ;).
Traci Kenworth says
Another great one!! This is something I’m weak at due to my numerous allergies. I had surgery on my nose years ago but I still can’t smell unless it’s a very strong odor.
BECCA PUGLISI says
My under-developed sense of smell is an ongoing joke between me and my husband. He’ll come home and all “What stinks?”. And I can’t smell a thing. I guess we’re well matched in that way, lol.
When I was looking into this, I was shocked to see how common it is for people to have a decreased olfactory sense or the inability to smell at all. So we’re in good company :).
Carol Baldwin says
Interesting blog post. I’d envisioned that one of my characters had a strong sense of smell with her growing up on a farm, but I hadn’t thought of all these ramifications. Thanks for making me think deeper!
BECCA PUGLISI says
There WOULD be a lot of smells on a farm, you’re right. I suppose it might be a benefit to not be able to smell as much in certain parts of that setting 😉