Monday, March 26, 2012
Character Traits: Hygiene
This post was inspired by burrito night at my house. There are currently three men and a five year old occupying this house with my daughter and I. Let's just say things became musical and smelly and got me to thinking about hero's and hygiene. I'm not sure I have ever read anything on this topic.
Traditionally, hero's, both male and female are close to perfect. but is that really much fun? I mean, we are discussing flaws in these post so why not hygiene?
Hygiene in all forms will depend on time period, customs, and the availability of cleaning products including soaps, toothpaste, etc. In medieval and Renaissance Europe people didn't bathe on a regular basis due to fears that this practice would lead to demon possession. The rich sprayed themselves with perfumes and the poor just smelled bad. When the first European's came to America they where amazed at how clean the Native American's were. If your hero lives in this time period much will depend on his or her nationality.
You may ask, why on earth hasn't Hollywood mentioned the stink the Roman army must have left behind as they marched to war? Come on, allergies must have plagued others and not just modern man. Today we are a bit snobbish about hygiene. In the future there maybe a sonic shower or a procedure to remove all offensive odors from the human body.
Hygiene and your hero:
I would not make this into a huge issue with your hero. Bad hygiene is better applied to a comic character who is a friend or acquaintance of your hero. However, the occasional mishap, or a bad habit, the issue can be turned into a comic scene to lighten the mood of your story temporarily.
In my epic fantasy, The Treasures of Carmelidrium, Prince Healden is dining at an Inn with my heroine, Missie and many others. This is predominately a medieval society but has been influenced by modern conveniences. However, no one has introduced forks, knives and napkins at dinner to date. Healden and all others except Missie, a modern American University student, are eating with their hands. A bit of greasy meat hangs from Healden's chin and Missie reaches over with a cloth she has obtained to wipe it off, causing a stir among the guest. In this chapter the tension has been building solidly and this small scene breaks that tension, reveals personality traits of the characters and allows the reader to breathe. This is hygiene gone bad but completely acceptable in the time period.
I suspect that many of you have addressed hygiene in your stories. I'd love it if you shared.