I originally wrote this on 8 March 2015 but never got around to completing my planned series. Let’s move these posts out already!
This is the first proper installment of a series on writing about body modification. The series will cover really important considerations, the names and placements of most major piercings (not including personal piercings), healing times, historical developments, types of jewelry, reasons for retiring a mod, and potential issues, complications, and things to consider during the healing process or afterwards.
First things first, a few diagrams. You don’t want to give your character a piercing you don’t know the proper name or location of. (All images are courtesy of BodyCandy.)
A typical earlobe can accommodate four or five piercings, presuming they’re normal-sized and not stretched. The helix also has enough room for multiple piercings.
The Medusa is also called a Philtrum; the T in Labret is pronounced (it’s not French!); a Monroe is on the left side, a Madonna on the right side (after the natural beauty mark placements of their respective namesakes); and Dahlias, not included in this diagram, are right on the sides of the mouth.
A Nasallang goes through both nostrils and the septum with a single bar; a Septril goes in a nostril and out the septum; and a Rhino goes through the front of the nose, above the septum. Piercings not included on these diagrams include tongue, tongue web, most surface piercings, transdermals, microdermals, nipple, navel (on either side), and smiley (frenulum of upper lip). As abovementioned, I won’t be discussing personal piercings, unless there’s enough interest for a future post intended only for readers over the age of eighteen. I want to keep this series appropriate for all ages.
Just as a good piercer, tattooist, or modification artist always puts the client over the mod, a good writer should also always put the character over the mod. In other words, don’t give your characters the same mods you have, avoid giving them mods you personally don’t like or want, or use stereotypes. Good characters are never ciphers or stereotypes.
A character with soft, immature, round facial features may not be flattered by certain facial piercings, no matter how much you might like them.
Someone with a small mouth and throat has a strong gag reflex (speaking from personal experience), and probably won’t be a good candidate for a tongue or tongue web piercing.
Not everyone in a certain subgroup looks, acts, and thinks the same way. A popular 16-year-old girl with a slim body doesn’t automatically have to have a navel piercing, just as someone into a Gothic or alternative style isn’t required to have a lot of tattoos, piercings, or stretched earlobes.
Think about your character’s career or dream profession. Though great strides have been made since body modification started becoming more mainstream and socially acceptable, there are still certain careers which typically don’t allow any visible mods beyond ears or perhaps a discreet nostril piercing.
A conservative businessman who wears a suit and tie would have to have hidden mods; an aspiring elementary school teacher (outside of someone planning to work exclusively in alternative schools) should either indefinitely defer modification plans or hide them at work; someone who’s dreamt of being a doctor since age five may have to wait until retirement or a second career to get that longed-for eyebrow piercing.