1. Maztor Shake
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    Maztor Shake Member

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    How would I go about this?...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Maztor Shake, Apr 27, 2012.

    I started a rough draft on my first chapter of the story that I'm writing in third person limited, and now I'm going back to add detail and such. Then I came across a problem. I don't know how to describe what clothes look like on a female character. Everything I wrote down sounds cheesy in every way imaginable. But how would I go about describing something like...
    [​IMG] OR [​IMG]

    or just anything female clothing wise.

    Idk. I just been having trouble with this and this only. So... Help?
     
  2. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    OMG, I love Natalie Portman... and now I want that outfit :D

    I think the first question to answer is what kind of setting are you writing? Is it historical or fantasy? Either way, from the look of those outfits there seems to be a historical theme in there (well, not so much with the first - that's just polyester costume shit and not remotely historical at all), so researching period clothing, i.e. mediaeval would probably be a good place to start.

    God Natalie is stunning... DAMN, if I wasn't a het female... actually, even then ;)
     
  3. Maztor Shake
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    Maztor Shake Member

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    Its fantasy. I just threw in the first pic because I wanted to see how someone would describe that. I was kinda hoping for examples tbh.
     
  4. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I don't work for you ;)
     
  5. Maztor Shake
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    Maztor Shake Member

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    One day you might. All I ask for is an example or two.
     
  6. DanielRoseington
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    DanielRoseington Member

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    Might describe Portman's guise as a tunic with a leather vest? Are you trying to figure out what types of clothing they are or something else?
     
  7. Maztor Shake
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    Maztor Shake Member

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    I guess I need to do some research on the subject before I continue writing.
     
  8. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Check a couple of online catalogues or a description of the collections from the fashion houses for names for certain kind of garments or styles or fabrics.
     
  9. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    what do you need to describe her clothing for?
     
  10. Maztor Shake
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    Maztor Shake Member

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    To help paint a picture of the main character.
     
  11. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    It is an important aspect, and it paints a picture. In fact, I use it--by not using it. Let me explain.

    Maztor Shake is quite right in choosing what appears to be simple clothing choices to define a character. I use the opposite for the same reason. For example, a police officer wears a familiar blue uniform. However, when he is promoted, he wears street clothes. His advance in rank is defined by what he does not wear.

    In like manner, our most prestigious and decorated soldiers wear impeccable uniforms festooned with every campaign ribbon and citation earned. It is a walking resume' and definition.

    So when I take away such pomp, I have defined several things. It creates an instant back-story. Was his honor taken away, has there been a promotion rendering it unneeded, or did the character repudiate it?

    We understand this simply because we include or remove simple buttons, straps and fabric. I think Maztor Shake knows this, and includes it for a very valid reason.
     
  12. Maztor Shake
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    Maztor Shake Member

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    This. Thank you. I didn't want to go too deep into it. I just thought someone would just post an example or two. lol. But yes. This is where I'm getting at.
     
  13. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Hey, no prob. I believe in this "show, don't tell" aspect of writing. I believe you're on the right track.
     
  14. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Yes, clothing is important for characterisation, but if it's generic fantasy gear like the pictures linked above, it's hardly call for painstaking detail. Describe only what is relevant to plot or character, so... a travelling cloak indicates, well, that they travel a lot. Armour indicates they fight a lot, a leather jerkin and trousers on a woman indicates she's a bit of a tomboy... just include enough to serve its purpose.
     
  15. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh it's that kind of clothing :) Then I guess you won't find much help in catalogues. I didn't look at the pictures, actually. Maybe the museum of ancient clothing would be more appropriate then :D
     
  16. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    Do it through the eyes of someone you finds her sexually attractive, and maybe has a thing for leather. Let a character describe, not how the clothes look, but how the clothes make her look.
     
  17. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    What do you see when you look at those pictures?

    Are the colours bright, bold, flamboyant, natural, muted, drab? are they fitted, loose, sensible, ridiculous, etc,

    Describe what you see and how you see it.
     
  18. Maztor Shake
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    Maztor Shake Member

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    I think I got it. I took someone's idea of looking up a catalog of similar clothing and I think I have enough to do what your saying. Which is describe what's only relevant. Worse comes to worse my artsy side will come out of me and I'll have hand drawings at the beginning of every chapter or something to pain the picture.
     
  19. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    I guess my point was, describe it if it's necessary, but don't feel the need to just because you think that's what is supposed to happen in a story. It's possible that the setting, situation, and personality could describe for me what she is wearing better than any description you could write. But if you think it is really important, you could just do something simple like "Her leather tunic pressed into her neck as she withdrew an arrow and waited silently with her eyes narrowed." Or something. I don't actually particularly like that sentence, but you get the point
     
  20. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I had roughly the same conversation with another member here over the use of correct firearms terminology, especially over 'numbers.' In other words, to some of us we'd like to know that a Dodge had a 440ci Wedge engine. To many others it's good enough to say "a large Chrysler product with a V-8."

    Personally, I had not seen that picture of Natalie Portman in the archer costume. To paint the picture for me you might have had to go into further detail. To others who read more of that genre you could have gotten away with the phrase 'a fantasy archer's jerkin.'

    I will add one more thing to Maztor Shake's perspective that applies here. There are numerous cars, firearms and jerkins. A hemi is not a hybrid. Often the tools or clothing a character wears defines a purpose, sets a mood or simply is just entertaining to read. For example, Uriah Heep is not John Rambo. They are both "employees," but they choose and wear differing clothing.

    Additionally, I just like Shake's approach. It takes a bit of effort, originality and research to get the details right. When I see that concept applied, I settle back and get ready to enjoy a good story. The "see Spot run" method might advance the plot, but I want to see more.
     
  21. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Actually, for me it's good enough to call it a pistol, shotgun, rifle, semi automatic, sub machine gun etc. That's about as much as I can give a damn about because anything else is superfluous to its purpose in the plot.

    But the point is... you don't NEED to put that exact picture in the reader's mind, and even if you spent 1000 words trying, without showing them the picture you'd still never be able to convey that image exactly. Expending a lot of effort and word count to describe something exactly is not 'interesting' - it is a sign of the anal, control freak writer who wants to dictate how a reader imagines their story.
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There are two perspectives to consider when deciding how detailed or how technical to get in your terminology.

    The first is the point of view of the speaker or narrator. Is this person an expert in the topic of discourse? Using the gun example, is the teller a mercenary soldier? An armorer? A weekend hunter? Or is the teller a bookstore proprietor, seeing a complicated-looking weapon pointed at her by a nervous, drugged out kid?

    The other point of view is that of the person being spoken to. If it's narration, that person is the expected audience of the book. But it could also be another character. If the speaker knows guns, but is trying to explain to his octogenarian mom what found in a gun runner's warehouse, he won't use the same terminology he will use to the ATF chief to whom he is reporting the operation.

    Always consider both these POVs when choosing your level of detail and precision of terminology.
     
  23. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    My thoughts exactly. We want the reader to see the image in our heads, but guess what the reader wants to see? -- whatever image is in their own head. And I'm not suggesting you can throw some detail in there, but if it is getting to be a hang up, and you can't figure out how to describe it, then you are probably trying to describe it with too much detail. (This is not always the case, but I tend to think it works pretty well.) Also, how are you describing it? Is it just an info dump on the reader? Because to say "She stood before him in her leather tunic, with stitching criss-crossing up on down the front, ending at the golden belt buckle which held her sword sheath at the left side" tends to be overkill in my opinion. But, if I know your story takes place in some old realm fantasy world, and I just saw this girl kick the butts of 5 armed knights by jumping out of a tree, I'd probably imagine something pretty close to what you described, and it's a safe bet I'm not going to think she's wearing anything by Chanel. Will I picture the criss crossing stitching up her front? Maybe not, but it doesn't really matter. It's a detail that might resonate in your head, but to your reader, it's a distraction.

    And I'm not saying there aren't authors that don't describe in great detail. In The Dark Tower series, Stephen King begins by giving an elaborate description of The Gunslinger and everything he's wearing. I think that comes down to what Cog was saying -- the character is an expert, and so maybe this level of detail tells more about them. Personally, I think it is a little slow to read. I'd rather get the details throughout the story rather than all at once. If later on you want me to know she has stitching up the front, you could say "She unlaced her tunic and yadda yadda yadda" and my mind will make the necessary adjustments. No biggie.

    Or, just put a link to that picture in your story and say "She wore something just like this."
     

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