Monday, November 7, 2011

The breath of death...

[image courtesy: Flickr Creative Commons; AlishaV]

Welcome to my ramble of the week!

Halitosis, morning-breath, garlic-breath, onion-breath, coffee-breath, cigarette-breath, beer-breath, boozer's-breath, fish-breath... the list is as endless as it is stinky.

I tormented my character Primrose, from "Magical Gains" with the unfortunate odour of fish, and I have to say that smell plays a fairly large part in my writing. However, it has come to my attention that many novels neglect breath. Breath and particularly bad breath is a reality of life and it's a neglected reality in most genres.  I've read of characters passionately kissing first thing in the morning... I don't know about you, but that seems to be asking for trouble, especially if you're a mouth breather during the night. Dry, stinky morning breath is not endearing on anyone, and is in reality an unfortunate side effect of sleeping. So when considering writing a pre-coital pash at sparrow fart, it's worth remembering dribble encrusted lips and sour breath and re-evaluating the whole scenario. Now I have also read about a couple lost for several days lost and starving in the wilderness. This couple used frayed sticks to 'brush' and 'freshen up' ala Bear Grylls. Hmmm,  I know the romance characters weren't chowing down on worms, maggots or squeezing elephant dung to drink, but their lack of food and general hygiene would have made them high on the pong stakes, and as a reader I simply couldn't get over it. However, the worst I've heard of (a friend read this!) was a kiss, *gasp* after a vomit, with only a squirt of mouthwash. I'm serious! This is wrong on so many levels. A quick swill of mouthwash just won't do it after a vomit. Firstly, when you vomit, you're sick and you're not going to feel like a passionate snog marathon. The thought of swapping saliva and sumo-tongue wrestling is seriously going to be the very last thing on your mind, and will only help to start the second wave of nausea. Secondly, 9 out of 10 vomits result in some nasal spewing - and you're going to need to blow your nose, gargle, snort and otherwise try to dislodge those pesky bits of 'carrot' that seem to get trapped in the throat and nasal passages. There is nothing sexy about having a vomit and then having a pash. Unless of course you're on the Jerry Springer show and have a fetish you want to talk about... and seriously, that was the last time I ever watched Jerry Springer.

Now there is the argument that you're reading fiction, and therefore there doesn't have to be any bad breath - because  the story isn't real life... This is a fair point, however, I've spoken to several people and asked "have you noticed that in movies/books no one's breath ever stinks?" or "You know what? People never crap in movies/books." The resounding answer is "Yes, I know!" and an amusing example usually follows. So people do notice these things, it's not just me!  I did read one criticism of Harry Potter (and I do not abide with any criticisms of Harry Potter) and someone stated that during the whole seven years, Harry only has one bath... and that's during the "Goblet of Fire" (when he was attempting to decipher the meaning of a screaming egg.) The argument put forward in support of Harry was; that the novel didn't need to go into Harry's bathing details, because it wasn't pertinent to the story, and the scenes worth focusing on did not take place during bathtime. Maybe the same could be said about bad breath.

Well, I think is that breath a little different. Most people consider breath and notice it, and when an erotic kiss happens just after ciggy, and the kiss is described as 'sweet', most readers get a little jolt and think... No it's not, it'd be smoky!  This then take the reader out of the story if only for a second, which is not what an author wants (nope not even a second). So I think it's important to make the kisses somewhat smell and taste realistic.                                                                                                    OK, enough of the rramble.... But as an after thought I'm adding a link to one of my favourite video clips by Cyrine Abel Nour, of her song 'Law bass fi aini'. Something not so sexy takes place... and I'm not talking about the scene with the cut throat razor. Watch it now. Yep you got it, they're squeezing a lemon over a can of fish!Maybe I'm missing something, but fish isn't sexy (unless you're Troy McLure from The Simpsons), and if he ate it, he wouldn't smell so sexy either. Unfortunate, because it's one of my favourite songs ever. Anyway, enough is enough. Edits await and "Magical Redemption" won't write itself.

[images courtesy: Flickr Creative Commons; Joost-ijmuiden, and Pink sherbet ]


  1. It's so true! And I'm not a mouth breather and yet I wouldnt want to kiss me in the morning. Yuk!
    I remember when I was first dating DH and I would get up to do my teeth and go to the loo before he woke. lol
    Anyway, the only book I have read that does have day to day showers, brushing etc is the Sookie Stackhouse series. Oh my gosh the woman would go through each thing she did and at the time I thought it was funny but now...well now I tend to think maybe Charlene thought the same as you and wanted to change it. Rock on Charlene Harris, I commend you for your hygiene.
    Great Blog Nicola, it made me think and I am thankful my characters showeer and my hero is also known to come racing down the stairs to her scream with a toothbrush in his hand. lol

  2. Good to hear from you Kerri. I think even alluding to hygiene makes a story more believable and therefore engaging! Good luck with your writing! Hope your 'block' problems is sorting itself out. :)