Other Cool Blogs: Tor Feb/Mar 2017

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Costume and Story

Last year I attended a panel on costume in writing. Being one of two audience members, matching the two speakers, we had a lively round-robin discussion. (Sometimes smaller is better.) The panelists were steampunk writers; few other genres are as clothing driven as steampunk. But we ranged from the uniforms of the David Weber‘s science-fiction Manitcore Navy to the shawls of Robert Jordan‘s fantasy used to represent Ajah alliances. Clothing provides meaning, layering. World history. 

And sometimes clothing defines the character.

Tor, publisher of science fiction and fantasy, asks their authors to provide posts on occasion for their website. Sarah Gailey provided one on Storytelling through Costume. She stuck with the visual mediums of television and movies, but the ideas are sound for writing as well.

Iconic SFF Costumes: Storytelling through Costumes

The Allure of the Red Dress

The Woman in White

The Badass Black Tank Top Walks the Line 

While I am well familiar with the Red Dress and the Woman in White tropes, I hadn’t run into the Black Tank Top before. Very illuminating on finding a balance between the strong woman and the vulnerable woman, a person of competence and an object of objectification.

WRITING EXERCISE: Define a character through his or her costume.


In Honestly, during Chapter Four, Kassandra has the following observation of Troy:

Today, Troy had on his normal button down long sleeve shirt with collar paired with a set of slacks. Only the top button was unbuttoned, transforming a nerd look into sleek male. Was he brown all over, or did his father’s inheritance make him paler where the sun doesn’t shine? A golden yellow shirt and the forest green pants prevented her from finding out immediately. How he would tolerate what she was coming to think as his uniform once summer truly began, she had no idea. May first just past and the temperatures outside were peaking in the high eighties every day.

Troy’s formality shows through in his clothing choices, as well as the wish to hide the scars on his body and soul, but a hint of opening in his armor shows with the single button unbuttoned. As the story progresses, less of his body is covered and his clothing gets more informal but never completely informal or poorly maintained (wrinkled or torn).

Note the long clothing description did not occur until well into the story (chapter four), when the reader is committed to the story. The scene served two purposes: character development for Troy and hint at the emotional evolution of Kassandra who both admired him sexually and delved deeper into who he was as a person.