They always say that dressing your characters is important. And I would completely agree with that. I love deciding what my characters will wear. Because most of the gals I write about are modeled after me, they tend to dress how I would, with a bit of flair thrown in, since well, I don’t have the world’s best looking legs. My ex boyfriend would disagree with that since he was always taking pictures of them, but I digress. So, I get to style how I wish I looked. It’s a great way to have some fun.
I’m also quite fond of dressing my male characters in outfits I love. Like Isabella Louise Anderson mentioned on Wednesday, there is something incredibly sexy about a man in a suit, with a white shirt unbuttoned at the neck. I think I had forgotten how much I like that look till she had mentioned it. I’m also quite fond of men in turtleneck shirts a la Keanu Reeves in The Lake House.
However, dressing your characters isn’t all that is important in dressing them. You can read about what someone is dressed in, or what they look like, but that isn’t what get’s you really picturing it. What makes you ‘get’ what the character look like is how that character is viewed by others in the book. What would you rather read?
“She was dressed in a pencil skirt, crisp white shirt, and lined stockings.”
“He ran his eyes up her body, following the line of her stockings up her slim calves to the hem of her black pencil skirt. From there, he noted the slim waist accentuated by a wide leather belt, before continuing up to her crisp white shirt that made her look like a secretary. He liked secretaries. Some of his finest romances had been with secretaries.”
Those were just two I threw out there to make a point. Personally, I would rather read the second one, but that’s me. There might be people out there that don’t want the man to be thinking in these terms. Me, I like that heart flutter you get when you read that someone liked someone else’s outfit, and it made an impact on them.
Now, granted, this is from a woman’s point of view. Men view things like this completely differently. Take for instance, the Nikki Heat books by “Richard Castle”. (Air quotes there because really, we all know Richard isn’t writing these.) You know these books are written by a man because of the lack , I’m talking serious lack, of descriptions about how anyone looks. Even to what they wear. We really have no idea. Nikki Heat could be wearing granny panties for all we know. Okay, sure, a suit jacket here, a long sleeved tee there, but for the most part, nada.
It irks me. I really like to know what someone looks like. Even a hint, thank you very much.
And this also includes actual physical features of the characters. I like knowing, or reading, when a hero loves how a girls eyes are the deepest shade of blue that he could fall into. Yes, I know, it’s not really reality, which is why it’s called FICTION. I’ve done it myself; gone on and on about what character’s eyes look like, and I’ve also been corrected by an editor about sounding too Romance Fiction- y. I changed what I was writing at the time, but I still love to wax poetic about what someone’s eyes look like. It’s really quite ridiculous since of the two guys I was involved in, there eyes were not the first thing I noticed, nor even the second.
Well, basically, to conclude this thought, how characters perceive each other is almost more important than how you describe what they wear. If a girl looks in a mirror and thinks that a dress makes her look fat, it’s really more honest then just describing the color and shape of a dress. It clues you in to what the girl is feeling, or how she thinks about herself. Same as if she sees the hero in dark brown corduroy pants and a cream turtleneck pullover and her heart thuds. You feel the emotion in those words.
To me, the emotion is more important than the actual act of dressing your characters.