#Character Development: Do Clothes Make The Character

Until I read this post, I did not consider clothing in the grand scheme of character development. My thoughts focused on personality, dialect, family background, and the like for breathing life into the character.  If you really think about it, all of those things could paint a picture for the reader when there is action.  But what if the character hasn’t said a word yet?  How else would another character pick up on these things?

That’s where clothing can play a role.  Sure we shouldn’t judge people by the way they dress.  That is true.  But in a realistic way, we assess people by how they present themselves.  For instance, if a character donned a ballet bun, colorful sports bra, tennis shoes, and knee-length leggings, we’d assume the character liked to exercise.

Or consider the photo for this post.  The women are dressed in clothing from the 1920s.  Could the storyline be a modern Gatsby party?  Or could it be a peek into the sophisticated lives of people from that era?  It’s hard to tell.  But the clothing does tell a story all on its own.

All in all, this is an excellent post.  And I truly appreciate the insights that help me and others become better writers.

Global Mysteries

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Clothes can play an important role in depicting mystery novel characters. Clothing descriptions can build impressions and reveal social standing and character personality or values. Clothes are a way to describe class, taste. body image, mental health and even intent. Clothes can make your characters.

But, clothing description must have a purpose. Only describe a character’s clothing if it is important to the story.  Here are some ways writers can use clothing descriptions to enhance their novel characters:

  • In a mystery novel clothes may act as clues. This strategy has endless uses—witness descriptions, shoe prints, fibers, clothing markers.
  • Use clothing to contrast characters’ personalities—a sexy babe’s short, thigh-high skirt would contrast with her colleague’s conservative at-the-knee  hemline.
  • Use clothing to create authentic settings and scenes. Clothing will differ in foreign countries, historical settings, sciFi.
  • Clothing can enable a writer to show rather than tell basic character traits. Do his clothes show…

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