This week: Economic HygieneEdited by: Satuawany
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When my friends and I spend a weekend camping, we rough it. After two days and two nights with nothing but a couple of hands-and-face washes, I notice nothing amiss about my personal aroma until I get back around my well-bathed family. How much of that translates to your world?
How a culture approaches hygiene can say a lot about it. Ironic, that in historical fiction, it is so often left out. And that's a pity, because it's the novels that point out the hygiene practices (or, rather lack thereof) of the time that feel the truest.
Does the technology on your world make it plausible that the people get a daily bath? Do they even bathe with water?
In one bygone sci-fi series, they relied on a kind of worm to clean their teeth. In the past, people have chewed parsley, peppermint, or other herbs to freshen their breath. Clove powder was used to clean the teeth. Some futuristic stories do it with a kind of sonic vibration---something more than the modern "sonic toothbrush."
Adding these details just for the sake of adding them can trip up the story, but if they're woven into the building of the world and characters, they make everything seem more real. And you can't ignore the effect of it on society.
Think of the skin and hair care products---the soap, the shampoo, the conditioner. Paul Mitchell was no beggar in rags when he died. Or perhaps the people of your world are more prone to make their own hygiene products. If so, where do they find the time, what with all the plot-doing?
Toothbrushes and toothpastes have their on aisle in the drug store, and there are a few brands to choose from. Is this how the people of your world get their personal hygiene products? If it can be sold, and is deemed a needful item, someone in an economically driven society will sell it.
They can even convince people they need something they never thought they needed before. In the early 1900s, America saw something rise in popularity: sleeveless dresses. Razor companies jumped up and decided women needed to buy their razors to get rid of the now-revealed and unsightly underarm hair. When hemlines went up, guess what next a woman should shave?
Removing body hair wasn't a novel idea, but it was then that it became so popular in the United States. It is, perhaps, a coincidence that razor companies started that campaign at a time when so many of their male customers were overseas fighting in World War I, but consider what kind of an impact such a thing might have on your world.
If there are marketing strategists in your world, what mark might they leave on society? How do those things affect your characters' lives and personalities? If they don't go with what is generally accepted, why, and how do they deal with the backlash?
And don't forget how different hygiene habits can be between classes. While your high-and-mighty characters might get a bath in expensive oils every day, what of the people of the lower castes? What does bathing involve and how accessible is it to the average citizen?
Knowing these things fills out the world, fills out the characters, and even offers interesting settings for some of your scenes. Surf the internet for the history of some of our modern hygiene practices---Americanized and otherwise. There are few other sources for inspiration in this area.
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Comments on my previous newsletter, "Writing in Present Tense"
Great points. I'm not a fan of present-tense, so far. But, if I ever have a go at it, I will take your advice with me.
I hope you get a chance to try it out someday. When coupled with the right story and the right character(s), it can be magical.
I write in the present tense and when I have to go into the past tense, I italic that phrase as a memory or something of the same.
That could work well, depending the story. Too many flashbacks can still derail the whole thing, but there are always exceptions.
This is great, when I'm writing just on the computer or my note book, I correct this in my 3rd draft. But I'm out of practice, thanks for reminding me.
Certainly! I've noticed I usually have certain things I focus on in certain drafts. All's the better when a system works!
M. J. Bourne writes:
I've recently been considering trying my hand at the present-tense, first-person form--what great timing on your part! ;) Thanks for sharing this great info!
I hope it helps, and good luck with your tense/POV adventure!
LJPC - the tortoise writes:
This was an excellent NL about tense and how to avoid problems. Yeah, in the YA of today, present-tense has become almost as popular as first-person POV. I don't like either, but it seems many agents equate first person with voice, and are swayed that direction. Not helped by the fact most publishers are putting out first-person narratives, and teens seem to like it. I'm crossing my fingers the style dies down -- but that hasn't worked with Twitter, Facebook, or blogs, so I guess I'm stuck.
Aw, nuts! I like 'em, when they're done right. It just happens that way so rarely. I'm still trying to come to terms with Facebook and Twitter, however.
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