The Scent of Her Soul: A Developing Story – Part 1

Scent of Her Soul

They gave me her shoe—Nike, size six, typical for a twelve-year-old.

As a human bloodhound of sorts, I had been asked to smell a variety of items. A shoe was not one of my favorites. Yet since Amy wore it when she was abducted, it was the best scent source possible.

I sniffed the inside. The odor carried her essence—pungent sweat, a trace of blood … and the scent of her soul.

As I exhaled a stream of white, a frosty breeze sent the vapor up through the glow of a neighborhood streetlamp and into Spokane’s nighttime sky. Through my ski mask’s breathing hole, I inhaled fresh, crisp air and let my membranes absorb the elements. The particles of a thousand Amys filtered in, along with a thousand Alyssas, Aarons, and Andrews, but only one matched the sample. The missing Amy was out there … somewhere.

I turned to the weeping mother. I couldn’t remember her name or the name of the father who held her close, both bundled in heavy coats on this dark night. No matter. I knew Amy’s name. And I could provide them the assistance they desperately needed, a service the police could never hope to provide.

“I can find her,” I whispered.

The mother swiped a tear from her cheek. “You mean …” She swallowed down a sob as her hopeful eyes sparkled. “She’s alive?”

“She’s alive … for now. But if traffickers got her, she’s living in hell.” I pulled my trench coat close. Even with a sweatshirt underneath, the bone-chilling air cut to the skin. “Do you have what I asked for?”

“Right here.” The father extended a small canvas bag. Light from the streetlamp revealed its purple color. “I sold my Mustang to raise this money. Getting Amy back …” His voice faltered. “Well … no sacrifice is too high.”

“Amy’s photo is in there, too,” the mother said. “It’s from just three weeks ago. Also Fred’s business card so you’ll have our phone number.”

I took the bag. “And what keepsake for Amy?”

“A stuffed bunny she named Beans. She sleeps with him every night.”

“That should work.”


This idea came to me as I lay awake on a sleep-deprived night. I have already altered it a bit, and I will reveal the new version next week, but I wanted to show the progress by providing the initial expression of the idea.

In yesterday’s writing tip, I mentioned that it is best to start in the protagonist’s ordinary world. Although this character’s ability seems strange, and his activities are intriguing, finding lost girls is his ordinary world. The text provides the impression that he is accustomed to his abilities, and he takes them in stride, which indicates the ordinariness of the opening.

Notice the essential items I mentioned in yesterday’s post: A hook beginning, questions that are raised, an immediate goal for the protagonist, character qualities and flaws, sparse details for the physical setting that are perhaps sufficient, the beginning of a bridge to the back story. Though I have not discussed all of these elements in detail in the writing tips (they are coming), I hope you can pick them out.

Let me know what you think. What questions are raised? What are the character’s qualities and flaws? How is the back story beginning to take shape? What other elements did you notice that I haven’t mentioned yet?

Also, for the braver souls, what do you not like? What suggestions do you have for improvement?


Categories: Story Development

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26 replies

  1. I thought this idea was intriguing the first time that I read it. I find myself wondering, “Is he some kind of human bloodhound? Does he work with the police? Or is he like an independent contractor?”

    I also like the fact that you mention human sex trafficking. This has been a hot topic among my peers recently, and it’s great to see a favorite writer of mine join the fight to raise awareness, even if it is a fictional story.

    There’s one thing that distracts me. The line that mentions a thousand Amys, a thousand Alyssas, and so on makes me feel confused. I wonder, “Are they /all/ named with ‘A’ names? Or are these types of people? Or is the writer just trying to illustrate the sheer number of people in the world?”

    I can feel my mind slip from the story as I try to puzzle out the answer.

    • Lauren, the reason I chose to have all A names is to show that we have many, many sex slaves (male and female) without even getting out of the A letter. It also shows that the protag is thoughtful and poetic. I can see how it can cause a pull out of the story, but at this point my hope is to provide a deeper look at the protag. The story really hasn’t started yet.

  2. Some of the questions raised: who is the protagonist? Who is Amy, and what happened to her? What kind of gift does this protagonist have that enables him (I’m assuming it’s a male) to catch scents so keenly? Who are these traffickers?

    As for the character’s qualities and flaws . . . He seems very focused, which already looks like both a good and bad thing. It will likely help him to find Amy, but he’s forgotten peripheral details like the parents’ names.

    Backstory: We get the sense that the character works for the police or some other organization. Traffickers seem to be commonplace in this story world.

    I liked this snippet and look forward to reading more next week! The only suggestion I have is to make the identity of the MC a bit clearer. Around the third or fourth paragraph, I was wondering if he was a police dog, until he spoke aloud. But maybe you’re keeping us guessing on purpose. 😉 (Sorry for the length of this comment!)

  3. I’m getting a Sherlock Holmes sort of feel from this MC, whoever he is, which is certainly a good thing as far as catching my interest goes. The ability he has is bizarre but very unique and creative; I wonder where he got it – was he born with it, or is it an unnatural talent that was bestowed upon him, willingly or unwillingly?

    He seems distant and single-minded, hence my Sherlock Holmes connection. The noncrucial details – like the parents’ names or the thousands of other people he can sense – are of no consequence at this time. All that matters is he’s got the trail for one particular person and is one step closer to solving this thing. We also have the clock set to count down, knowing that whoever Amy is, if she’s with these Traffickers, she’s in bigger trouble than if she were dead.

    The prose, to me, was a tad… Hm, what’s the right word… abrupt. Slightly mechanical, maybe? However, it’s possible that that is simply part of the character voice, being in 1st Person POV, which in that case, it’s fine. If it’s intentional, it adds to the distant aspect of his character. Makes him a bit detached, in a way, I guess.

    I also want to meet Sergeant Mahoney. What does he or she think of this person’s… unique ability? How long have they been working together?

    Thus concludes my disjointed ramblings. 😛 Overall, I’m very intrigued. I can’t wait until you post more!

    • Great comments, imaginishme. Yes, he is mechanical. That was to show some of his personality. This is one of many, many times he has done this, so he is a bit emotionally detached. Yet, when the time comes to rescue Amy, his emotions will kick in.

  4. Human bloodhound… Cool! I like when you said in your reply ‘when the time comes to rescue Amy’. I don’t know who Amy is, but I’m thrilled that her rescue is already planned.

    Sometimes it takes me a while to connect with first person PoV… It’s like I prefer ‘seeing’ the main character, kind of like a movie, rather than seeing out of their eyes. However, the fact that both this and reapers make/made me WANT to see out of the characters’ eyes is a testament to your skill.

  5. At first, when it was talking about the scent of her soul, I wondered if this was going to be somewhat like reapers, somewhat not. A fantasy story involving the finding and saving of lost, wandering souls in that inner dimension, the realm in between the natural and the supernatural. And then more of the reality kicked in and I realized it wasn’t going to be fantasy at all (unless his abilities take a strong, slightly unhuman-like turn as the story progresses), but an even deeper sense of reality. A rather taboo topic in the black and white world of Christianity we tend to live in, but there are a million shades of grey, like this one, that are in dire need of discussion — and I can’t think of any better way to reach people than through a work of (sadly, rather non)fiction like this. The reader gets put into their world, and lives their pain along with them, making their awareness of the situation that much more real and alert. I’m very much hooked, and look forward to reading the next installment.

    • Thank you for the input. This won’t be like Reapers at all, though I understand the initial perception of similarity. This will probably be the edgiest story I have ever written, so it won’t be for my usual audience.

  6. Hmm. I like that. It is intriguing and the title is wonderful :). It makes me wonder if this will another series or perhaps become part of an existing one or stand alone. I like the character. He (it feels like a he to me) sounds really interesting. I want to learn more about these abilities he has and where this will go. Due to the title I see definite options and hinting at a possible love interest and that always fun. I really want to know more about this world and this character. I want to know why Amy is missing, who the Traffickers are, and what this world is. This story could go somewhere very wonderful.
    Random Question (if it is aloud) what is your opinion on the Oxford Comma?

  7. Amy? The beginning intrigued me as soon as I heard my name. 🙂
    I liked the detail. You immediately gave her age, and you mentioned small but important things, like sizes and brand names. I find that when little details are added it draws me closer to the story and makes it feel more real.
    Looks very interesting. I’ll be excited to

  8. Some questions that were raised; Who is Sgt. Mahoney? What does he know to do? How can this person smell souls while others (seemingly) cannot?

    I enjoyed reading, and if this was on the back of a book that I randomly found, I would most likely read it.
    The mention of “nike” immediately makes me believe that the story is based on modern times, with some obvious differences. To me, the differences are what would intrigue a reader, make them think, “How has this author changed this world?”

    When the main character is smelling the air, and catches the scents of “… a thousand Alyssas, Aarons, and Andrews…” it seems to convey that the main character can tell the name of a person just by smelling their soul. But if that is true, then why wouldn’t the main character know the names of Amy’s parents?

    (This last one is strictly in my opinion, and is strictly from what I know of the book so far, your plans for it in the future may make some of this next paragraph null.)

    Also, I remember you saying somewhere the “The Scent of Her Soul” is just a possible title. But that begs the question, is finding Amy the main conflict of the book? If it is, then the title works. However, in my opinion, finding Amy could still be a part of the main character’s “normal world”, and if that is the case, then the title would seem only applicable to anything before the normal world is destroyed.

  9. Good thoughts, N. Phillips. I think the character is making up the other names just to ruminate on the aromas. He doesn’t really know the other names. It’s just a poetic meditation.

    Finding lost girls is the main conflict, so the title fits. Amy is just the first one of several. The ordinary world will be crushed because of what happens while finding Amy, and that disruption will lead to other conflicts, though the crusade to continue finding girls will continue.

  10. It sounds cool so far. I’m going to read more soon. ^ ^ I didn’t see these before. ^ ^’

    Stori Tori’s Blog

  11. I like the idea of this story because you are using a fictional story to address a very real issue. Sex trafficking is, unfortunately, still an issue in our country. However, when trying to get information out about it, most people ignore the really factual books and resources. Maybe it’s because the facts presented as strictly facts aren’t interesting enough to read…kinda like reading a history book is kind of boring but reading historical fiction based off of real events is fun. (Not that fictional books about sex trafficking is fun by any means) The historical fiction, if injected with enough real facts, can be educational even though it wouldn’t replace the textbook. Or perhaps people just don’t want to acknowledge the fact that it still happens. Either way, by presenting this issue in a fictional book, people are more likely to read it and in doing so, learn more in a….not necessarily fun because of the subject matter, but a more….what’s the word….easy to understand way. Great idea.

    Your title is perfect because it grabs people’s attention. When I first read it, I was immediately curious. Do souls have a scent? What is this?

    When I continued to read, I agree with imaginishme and Rex. This does sound like a Sherlock Holmes a little bit, but I also feel like Sherlock Holmes would also be noticing her parents because he’d analyze them for clues as to the wherabouts of their daughter. However, in this case, it doesn’t seem as though the MC needs that information because he can smell Amy’s scent and knows that she’s out there somewhere and can track her by her scent. He’s like Rex said, a human bloodhound haha.

    Some questions arise from this excerpt. When is this story set? Future? Past? Early or future world? As before mentioned, the Nike suggests sometime that is fairly recent, but it could also be when they were first invented (1964). Therefore, it could be sometime in the past or it could be similar to Back to the Future in that it is far in the future, but some things remain the same, just altered slightly. Who is the sergeant? How long has this boy been doing this? Who does he work for? How many other people have this ability? This story intrigues me and I can’t wait to read the next part.

    • I hope you get to read all of it. The book has been published.

      • =O That’s definitely going on the list of your books I want to own. I currently have all of your Dragons in Our Midst (except for the graphic novel), Oracles of Fire, and Children of the Bard and I have read them like twice or three times each. I also have your Tales of Starlight and am planning on getting Dragons of Starlight at some point. I love your books! They are so inspiring and filled with God’s truths that once you finish reading them, you feel so content and at peace as well as invigorated by a fantastic plot line. You really have a God-given talent for writing. Your books had a hand in my decision to become a Christian approx. a year ago, so thank you for your books. They are changing lives for God. Keep it up! And Happy Halloween by the way!

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