On a mystery writers forum, an author posted about how she wrote that her character pulled out a handkerchief while trying to find another item in her bag. The agent she queried asked if she was trying to age her character. For pulling out a handkerchief?! The young agent thought people didn’t used handkerchiefs anymore.
I’m perplexed by this. What would a handkerchief have to do with age? Age or refinement? Just think of all the possibilities when a character has a hankie in her purse. Why does she use it? Where did it come from? Maybe it belonged to her grandmother and it reminds the character of the wonderful times she spent with her. Maybe it shows how ecofriendly she is (and why I’m surprised not everyone uses hankies). Better to reuse and wash hankies instead of filling a rubbish bin full of once-used tissues.
These are my handkerchiefs. If I got on Etsy, I would have a ton more. I admit I don’t use the awesome WW2 Army Air Force Sister handkerchief. Soldiers had these made and sent overseas to their sisters, mothers, and sweethearts. How romantic is that? The one with the white embroidered flowers hasn’t touched my nose either (too pretty!), but the other two, I use regularly. Do those hankies mean anything to me? Why yes. A friend gave me the blue embroidered one when my youngest daughter died. My friend’s mom, who died years before, had the philosophy that one should always have a hankie at weddings and funerals. The blue one belonged to my friend’s mom and she wanted me to have it. I stitched the bird one. It’s a wren and one of my characters is named Wren. She would definitely carry around a handkerchief with a wren embroidered on it.
So readers, don’t judge a character too quickly. There may be story behind that handkerchief or other odd item she carries in her purse. Writers, use that notion to really develop your characters.
This also wants me to start a Twitter campaign, #bringbackhankies or #usehankies. Come on you twenty-somethings! Make the handkerchief cool again!