The other night, I told one of my daughters, "It doesn’t matter what you look like. It’s what’s inside that counts."
The next day I went to get my hair cut and eyebrows waxed.
Yeah, I know.
I’ve been in a dither about gray splicing my once-brown mane. I weigh too much. My clothes don’t fit right.
Do as I say, not as I do.
Welcome to the pre-booktour jitters. Those who know me, know these superficial concerns are waayy out of character. But, then it hit me, in public, I play a character. It’s the together writer. (Hah!) Gone is the soccer mom in sweats, the occasional misanthrope, the woman who worries about whether the shephard’s pie she made will be loved by her family. In her place is a well-coiffed, cleaned up gal who is witty and fun.
Playing this character made me think about the ones I write (thanks to Brett for his great post last Thurs.). And, in the weird way my mind works, I turned to superficialities. How important are looks to those we create in our novels/short stories?
Of course we need to be able to visualize our characters. Readers need that, too. Bulbous or cheerleader noses, breasts the size of champagne glasses (thanks, Arthur Koestler) or crenshaw melons, eyes the color of wet sand or pristine sky — all of these give us clues about the person.
And, well, clothes are important — up to a point. If a woman picks horsehair over silk for her slacks, that tells us something.
But it’s about two steps beyond those necessary descriptions where I get hung up. There’s this vapidity about fashion that I just don’t understand. Brands become code words for entire character traits. Vera Wang, Calvin Klein, Kanye West. Paris Hilton? Paula Abdul? Huh?
The problem is, I haven’t got any idea what the code means. I also don’t feel compelled to get the education. Is this writing that deserves our effort or is it simply lazy?
From my POV: If a woman carries a purse, I could care less whether it’s a Coach or Andrino. What I want to know, what really matters, is if it’s big enough to conceal the murder weapon.
So, my questions today center on fluff and frippery as they are translated into crime fiction.
When do clothes matter? (Do you have an example?)
When do brands matter? (Do you have an example?)
Have you read any great books or passages where these kinds of fashion concerns are done just right?