Monday, April 2, 2012

Clothes Call

You'd have to be hiding under a rock not to know anything about the Trayvon Martin case. I don't want to get into opinions about guilt or innocence, since that's not for me to decide. I'm just bringing this up because of the furor over a simple article of clothing called a hoodie. In some circles, if you wear one, that indicates deviousness. Incidentally, I wear them all the time, but my only claim to deviousness is trying to mislead readers until the end of the book when all is revealed.

When writing fiction, be it a mystery or other genre, you can use clothes stereotyping to advantage by including a general or specific description of what characters are wearing. Particularly, in the historical romance genre, detailed descriptions are provided for readers to ground them in the era and the person's station in life.

In mysteries, it's not necessary to go into minute detail, but it wouldn't hurt to occasionally throw in the types of clothes the characters are wearing. Such details can hint at what type of character you're portraying. A fastidious person might wear a pressed suit or outfit including a vest or cardigan, while a free spirit might wear jeans or Dockers. Also, keep in mind where your characters live and what season it is, because that will make a difference. An Arizona person might normally wear shorts outside in March, but if someone in Minnesota did, it would seem odd.

What people wear also can depend on age or physical characteristics. Younger, thinner people can get away with revealing clothes. In Forever Young: Blessing or Curse, the main character is 55 years old, with post-middle aged spread and is embarrassed when asked to don a bikini for the "before" photos. Later, when she turns 24, the prospect of wearing one isn't as repulsive to her.

Bad guys or gals are often portrayed as sloppy dressers, with dirty or torn clothes, and inattention to their overall appearance.You could use that stereotype to describe a bad guy, but it might be even more fun to go the other way. Make that person seem normal on the outside, but that's a mask hiding true evilness, such as in the case of Ted Bundy.

Also, if you provide clothing descriptions, later on when police come up with evidence, such as fabric threads at crime scenes, it can all tie in.

From what I've mentioned, you can get a general idea of ways to include clothes in stories. Maybe you can think of other examples.

Morgan Mandel writes thrillers, mysteries and romances,
often combining them. Her current release, Forever Young;
Blessing or Curse, is available on Kindle, Nook, iTunes, Kobo,
Diesel, Smashwords, Sony, in Print, also in the UK.

Excerpts & Buy Links for all of Morgan's books are


Bob Sanchez said...

It's fun to flip stereotypes around. Let the kid with the hoodie be the good guy. The person who swears be the one with strong moral character. When you do that, you keep the reader alert and guessing.

Morgan Mandel said...

Yes, there's something to be said for being unpredictable and keeping the reader guessing.
Morgan Mandel

Cheryl said...

This is a great topic since we tend to judge people by how they are dressed. I haven't yet used a character's clothes in this manner, but it would be neat to do so.

Writer Lady said...

You make a good point. It helps me to slow down and enjoy the read when I read descriptions of clothing or settings, sounds, weather. It adds an extra element.

Betty Gordon said...

Morgan, thanks for the reminder about clothes in novels. Clothes reveal a lot about an individual. Your comments made me review my current work and descriptions of clothes are in there! YEA!