Thursday, September 26, 2013

Writing Clothes

Yesterday I accompanied my friend to a cute clothing store down in El Segundo.  She needed a dress for a last minute club invite, and I was more than happy to get out of the office for a lunch adventure.  The entire time I was in there, all I kept thinking was, "Which one of my characters would wear these adorable clothes?!"  There were so many cute dresses, fun patterns, and sassy accessories that I knew at least one of my girls in Winter Lakes would have had a field day in there.

But then I think about the struggle of describing a character's attire when writing.  I remember in my fan fiction days receiving a comment from a reader who complained that she hated when writers described what characters wore.  This seems to be a common sentiment, even in critique groups where other writers shake their heads when people spend too much time talking about how their protagonist wore a leather jacket with his faded Levi's and steel-tipped motorcycle boots.  I've always thought the old adage of "the clothes make the man" rang true, especially in fiction where what someone wears could tell you just about everything you need to know about them. But apparently this isn't the case, and usually the description feels trivial and ends up making the reader disinterested.

During a crit group meeting, I was given a great suggestion on intertwining clothing into a scene so that it revealed mood and action.  So I went from a sentence like this:

He stood behind the country club in his black T-shirt.
To this:

He tugged the bottom of his black T-shirt that had become stuck to his skin from the humidity. 

With the adjustment, not only have I told you what he's wearing, but I've also made the sentence active and gave you a sense of the atmosphere.  Now I'm going to try to do the same with the inspiration I got from the clothes at this store!

If you have any other great tips for writing clothes, share it in my comments!

No comments: