The importance of clothing with characterization

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‘Round about a decade ago, I mentioned in some writing community that I liked to go window shopping and find clothes that would fit my fictional characters’ sense of style. I was promptly informed that I was crazy and weird.

Well, duh.

Why else would I be a writer?

Now that I never go anywhere without my ever-growing entourage, I don’t go window shopping anymore. I also don’t have anything to do with writing communities anymore, because the sheer level of “not getting it” is beyond astonishing. For people who claim to be all about writing fiction, they’re a little too concerned about appearances in the real world. Seriously, who cares if you’re weird?

But anyway

I love characterization. It’s probably the facet of writing that I’m the most enamored with, and I’m as passionate about my villains as I am about my heroes. I adore those meditative moments when I seek out their voices and listen to their stories.

And I guess that, given my apparent insanity, I have a different approach to characterization than other writers.

For some reason this is an unpopular thing to say, but the truth of the world is that the way you dress reflects your personality. That’s why some people are all about leggings and messy buns, while others like vintage fit-n-flare dresses. You know. Because they have different personalities.

So, my once-upon-a-time window shopping was part of my characterization process. Getting a clear picture of how they dressed also gave me a clear picture of who they were. I still like to browse online for what so-and-so would wear, and I put the clothes into my stories.

My approach also relies heavily on the preconceptions that the readers are bringing into the story, and gives a lot of room for individual interpretation (which I happen to enjoy, because it personalizes the experience). Instead of describing Miranda as “professional”, I put her in a pantsuit and it’s up to you to view her as “empowered” or “narcissistic.”

Me? I don’t think of her as either. But that’s a ‘nother post.

There you have it: clothing matters in fiction.

2 comments

  1. Window dressing for characters just sounds so practical. I’m wishing I’d thought of doing that years ago. Characters do need to be dressed, don’t they? I haven’t come across a book full of nudists, so it makes sense to look at clothes to help characterize a character.

    Liked by 1 person

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