1. Honeybun
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    Honeybun Active Member

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    Charactersitics of dress

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Honeybun, Oct 1, 2009.

    Hi again,

    I came across this whilst trying to introduce stage and screen writing to my world of writing. Describing the salient physical characteristics and habits of dress. It is said to be useful exercise towards building a character in writing.

    Does anyone have an idea about this? What are your views? Is there a fundamental aspect to it in life in general? :confused:


    Examples would be great :-D
     
  2. baillie
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    baillie Member

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    I've read several novels where the author seems to dwell on a characters physical appearence. Especially the face.
    A good author I can think of, off the top of my head, would be Nelson Demille. Dont have any examples of his work as I dont own any of his books (all been library books), but perhaps you could pick one of his works up sometime.

    I quite like when a characters physical appearence is described. I prefer the author to simply give an outline of the character, and allow the reader to make up their own details though.
     
  3. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    Neil Gaiman is the master of quick character description. In Neverwhere, he manages to describe the main character in one line- a more artful version of "he always looked like he just woke up"- and in American Gods he never actually describes the main at all, except for brief references to him being a big guy. He's a big guy, who just got out of prison, and he's called Shadow- that gives you just about enough to picture him.

    Other characters in American Gods get similar descriptions. One of them is a nameless man who has the ability to completely disappear from your mind as soon as you look away; you don't even remember what he said, only vaguely that something was said. He is described as a man in a fine grey suit, and Shadow forgets him immediately. You can kinda see the guy. Another one, Mister Nancy, is a smiling, lanky black man in a banana-yellow suit. With a yellow hat. Who is actually a spider. Again, just enough to picture him.
     
  4. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    I like to leave a little to reader’s imagination when it comes to character description.

    Because I write historical fiction, dress is often an important part in setting the time period. Even then, a mention here and there, I feel is enough to pass the message.
     
  5. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    Just try to avoid costume porn. A couple important details- "a pretty girl in a thick pink sweater and large boots"- beats an exhaustive list any day. And remember, if it doesn't affect the story or help establish character, it's probably okay to leave it out. In American Gods, Neil Gaiman only references Shadow's clothes when they have an effect- his thin jacket nearly gets him killed from frostbite at one point.
     
  6. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    If you're trying to describe the character's constume for stage or screen, don't. That's the director's domain, not the writer's (unless there's something very very particular that is absolutely necessary to the scene).

    I think the same restriction should be exercised in prose as well. If the dress is especially important, then include it, but otherwise its the type of thing that should be apparent based on the rest of your writing (ie who the character is, where they are).
     
  7. Honeybun
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    Honeybun Active Member

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    Thanks guys that's just wonderful :-D


    arron, I'd love to hear more :D
     
  8. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Ok, well taing two different but very successful plays: Endgame/Fin de Partie by Samuel Beckett and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee...
    In the Albee play, there is no mention of how the characters are dressed, and only a sentence or two to describe their appearance at all. Beckett, on the other hand is very particular about the way his characters appear:

    In a dressing gown, a still toque on his head, a large blood-stained handkerchief over his face, a whistle hanging from his neck, a rug over his knees, thick socks on his feet, Hamm seems to be asleep.

    Obviously he has a very direct meaning in insisting on the character bring dressed that way, whereas wth the Albee play, there is no specal significance in the way they are dressed, therefore its not worth mentioning in the play and should be left to the imagination of the director how they want to interpret the characters, what they would be wearing, etc.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    in re screenwriting, the less said, the better, as it's the director's, casting and costume dept's job to decide on the physical appearance and clothing details, not the writer's...

    all you should specify is a 'type' for your characters and not assign hair or eye, or even skin color, unless it's vital to the plot... same goes for how they're dressed...

    playwrights have more leeway in such matters, but still should avoid going overboard and stepping on the director's toes...
     
  10. Honeybun
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    Honeybun Active Member

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    Interesting... I'll surely get a hand on those plays and check for myself.

    So, can we say that, for example, Being scruffy, classy etc are characteristics of dress? and is that how it's regarded where screen/stage is concerned?

    *hope that was clear* :-S
     
  11. Honeybun
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    Honeybun Active Member

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    mama: thanks for the input ;)
     

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