A Little Note of Hygiene

I admit that I can be a bit fastidious about certain things, particularly teeth brushing. I won’t interact in the morning without brushing my teeth first. I’m trying to be polite. Inflicting morning breath on anyone is something I find to be rude. I realize not everyone thinks this way, certainly not fictional characters. But I think they should. Colgate or Crest all around! Who’s with me?

Part of the problem with this teeth-brushing thing is that it takes me out of a story, whether I’m reading or watching something. For instance, I was watching Castle, one of my favorite tv shows, and the latest episode has Castle bringing coffee to Beckett in bed. It was so sweet. He’d made hearts out of the foam. Adorbs. Beckett wakes up, looking disheveled and yet glamorous, and takes a sip of coffee. When I watched it my teeth clenched and I started tapping my foot. It was sweet, but I kept thinking, “Go brush!” The scene continued with them talking, at close range, and then she even sat on his lap, facing him. The shipper in my was dying at the sweet scene of them together, but I had to work to follow what they were saying due to the supposed blasts of close-range morning breath. Argh and ew.

This is clearly my issue, but it got me thinking about similar concerns of what to show versus what not to show. As a viewer/reader, I don’t want to see characters brush their teeth or read in-depth descriptions either. Although, their not having nasty morning breath helps to keep me in an early-morning scene. Because if I were in that situation–unless the house was burning down around me–that’s what I’d be thinking of.

In romance, I have come across many early morning scenes. Sometimes the author has them brush (or whatever means one can clean their mouths), sometimes it is not mentioned (and I mentally add that in myself). There’s a scene that stands out though–a kissing scene even–where the heroine had morning breath and horribly chapped lips. Robin Schone’s Awaken, My Love, which also has a trail-blazing opening scene, has a strangely sexy kissing scene that mentions the heroine’s unfresh breath. As I recall, the heroine is uncomfortable with it, but the hero, clearly, is not. The scene serves to show how into her he is. Something she was totally missing in her previous life. Of course I squirmed when I read it, but I turned the pages too and kept going because it worked.

Of course there’s the whole world of paranormal romance filled with blood-kisses, weres (with doggy breath?), demons, etc. Somehow that doesn’t bother me. Maybe I assume that immortals have immortally fresh breath? Go figure.

But it doesn’t make sense to include every bodily thing a character does. I’m leaving it at that.

So for you, readers and writers, are there certain behaviors (or lack of behaviors) that take you out of a story? How do you find a balance of showing enough of what is happening while keeping characters’ actions plot-centered?

I welcome your comments to what has been a more earthy post than I normally write.

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