Write Good Clothing
Write Good: An Absurd Storytelling And Adventure Blog
All your characters should be naked. Saves the work of dealing with clothing in your writing. There. That’s the blog.
... You didn’t take that seriously, did you? Good.
Nakedness makes people feel things. Clothes make people feel things. Nakedness and clothed-ness can make you feel confident, insecure, overloaded, flexible, free, trapped, and a whole shiz-ton of other things. That’s stating the obvious, I know.
In this reality, a lot of us get too busy to look into the meaning of the clothes we wear each day. Writing good clothing means slowing down and observing a few things about what clothing-and a lack of it-does. Some writers can tell incredible stories while placing minimal emphasis on what the characters wear. Other writers work the clothing into the dazzling atmosphere or the roller coaster relationships between characters. Every style of writing is valid and means a heck of a lot.
SO WHAT THE FRICK DO CLOTHES DO BESIDES KEEP US WARM AND UN-NAKED?
Clothes speak. Clothes hold feeling and evoke feeling. Clothes are literally the difference between life and death, and can be the difference between keeping and losing one’s limbs. (Maybe even genitals depending on the story you’re writing.) BUT, there is such a thing as too much clothing as well. With rare exceptions, no one wants to read two pages of a novel that JUST DESCRIBES A CHARACTER’S DRESS. So the right amount of clothes-and of skin exposed-can make your story into a reader’s new addiction.
To make clothes speak, ask your characters what they’re comfortable with, what’s useful, and what they feel is common decency. Every character. From bigwigs to broke-asses to the barely-alive. If sharp-lined suits that speak power are the messages he or she wants to send, spend a sentence or two laying that out on the page. If battered-but-clean or no-time-for-grooming is the situation your character’s in, clothing can show that without the need for word-puking what happened between scenes when clothes were or weren’t changed. If your protagonist or antagonist is so obsessed with themselves that they fight to protect their clothes/appearance even when they’re shot, or losing the fight, or losing their loved one, their attention to clothing can evoke that.
Know three characters whose clothes have spoken volumes about them in that exact order?
-John Marcone. (power suits, show of wealth, ya know)
-Remus Lupin. (threadbare robes, still professional)
-Jay Gatsby. (clothes = proof of superiority, right?)
What about women characters who’ve done just that?
-Cersei Lannister. (dressed for power)
-Teagan Frost (too busy throwing shit around with her mind to worry about clothes)
-Winter Lady Maeve (lack of clothing and what that communicated mattered most)
Clothes freakin’ SHOUT about who THOSE characters are. Your writing can benefit from the right amount of attention to clothing. So have some dadgum fun looking up clothes to put on your characters. Research the symbolism of colors. Match cool shiz to your fictional people. It’ll add layers to your writing with very little actual effort.
Clothes are little safe deposit boxes characters carry around with them to hold their feelings in. They’ll protect that emotion safe. They’ll show it off to some other characters, and show the true meaning to a select one or two. Clothes also make a nifty weakness that antagonists can seize on, whether in a fight or an argument or a social media post designed to humiliate or discredit.
How do we weave emotion into the clothes our characters wear? Easy. Hurt them in X set of clothes. Bring them joy in Y set of clothing. Let one bring comfort to another in a time of need with Z clothes. Those moments will cling to the senses. The sensory input of that-the smells and feels-triggers emotional reactions in the reader AND in the characters both. It’s a two-for-one deal, and your writing damn well should always be two-for-one-ing it. Onneing. One-ing. However you spell that. Dadgumit, words are complicated.
In a book that exists, a watch is the one thing that saved a character’s life. In another book that exists, a jacket can become any number of other kinds of jacket by turning it inside-out. In another book that exists, freaking jewelry drives characters insane. Clothing is not only part of everyday life for your characters, but if you’re pushing them as hard as you can, one little piece of clothing could be miraculous or deadly.
You don’t HAVE to utilize jeans or hats or socks in any of these ways in your story, but if you’re trying to get away with not using clothes in a meaningful way, answer me this:
ARE ALL YOUR CHARACTERS AMORPHOUS BLOBS OF SENTIENT MUSTARD? NO? THEN FIT SOME DAMN CLOTHES INTO YOUR STORY!
And oh yeah, nakedness can communicate all the things you just read about. Your lil’ eyeballs and your light-vomiting rectangle of choice will have to wait until the naked blog to see those enticing details. Now go practice your writing and take your characters clothes shopping. Or burn their wardrobe. Or convert it into a quilt a serial killer uses for smothering them.