Writing about body modification, Part I

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.)

Ear-Piercing-Diagram-edit

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.

facial-piercing-chart-2

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.

facial-piercings-chart

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.

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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.

Examples:

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.

4 thoughts on “Writing about body modification, Part I

  1. Body piercings are something I’ve not yet considered for any characters I’ve written or for myself. Same with tattoos.

    Lee

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    • Arlee:

      Some characters are ear-bedecked by implication [usually the standard sleepers].

      And, yes, I have considered tattoos for some characters – especially the colourful ones.

      I started to do this more once I stumbled the “Piercings/Tattoos” category in StumbleUpon.

      “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.”

      That would be my experience too – about the gag reflex.

      “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.”

      This is also good advice – it helps you think long term about the character.

      Lee: what were some of your characters’ career dreams, I wonder?

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      • For the most part when I’ve drawn out characters I’ve tended to think more about past and present than what their dreams are. I’m thinking now that my characters often didn’t focus on career dreams as much as conflicts to be resolved in the present. Something to think about for sure if I start writing fiction again.

        Lee

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        • Lee:

          Thank you.

          thinking about the characters’ present is important.

          The past can often lead and guide them.

          The way I’ve thought about conflict in writing has changed over the years and decades.

          In life and in writing I favour simple straightforward conflicts which have an outcome.

          I am not a fan of muddling or tying myself up.

          I find American literature teaches a lot about conflict; probably more so or at least in different ways than French, British or Australian literature.

          For example an Australian literature conflict would be humanity versus environment.

          When I was reading in the World Book about reasons and causes for war [that article is so very polemic and out of the usual tone of the encyclopaedia – I swear a historian wrote it, and I could even name it – like I can name the psychologists and psychiatrists who covered the transition from DSM-III-R to DSM-IV] my perception of conflict matured some.

          I find both the success and the failure of a dream drive conflict in my work.

          How do you handle conflicts in non-fiction? Especially in persuasive and expository writing? [there are five forms/genres I am trying to recall in the non-fiction world].

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