What comes to mind when you think of people with tattoos?
That answer is going to be different for everyone, but according to the bulk of the romance genre, the major types boil down to “bad boy” and “hippie/free-spirited girl.”
Authors, we can all do so much better than that. Tattoos are so often used as shorthand to make a character fall into a certain stereotype, but in reality, many people get tattoos for personal reasons that have nothing to do with fitting into one of those types. If you’re going to give a character tattoos, why not make them mean something? Why not use them to add depth to their character instead of pigeonholing them?
Now, in modern times, a tattoo is a completely voluntary thing that someone pays to have added permanently to their body. (If it’s not, none of my advice applies, and you’ll have a different sort of explaining to do–I’m not touching it here.) So the first question is:
- Would your character have a tattoo, and why or why not? “Why not” might not be relevant to the story if nobody’s going to have tattoos at all, but “why” definitely is, because somebody’s probably going to ask them, at some point, what the story is behind their art.
- Where is the tattoo? Generally visible to the public, partially hidden, completely hidden? How did they choose where it went? Does their line of work require no visible tattoos? Does their family have strong opinions? Or does the character simply consider it private?
- How willing are they to share the story behind the tattoo with other people? Do they tell one story to strangers and another to friends or lovers?
- Are any of their tattoos, if they have more than one, mistakes? Do they regret any of them? Have they had any removed, or wish they could?
- At this point in their life, would they get another one, and why or why not? What would it be, and how would that decision interact with the story?