Thursday, May 03, 2012

Seeing Things

If you and your best friend took a walk and came upon a dog, what would you think? Cute puppy, so pretty, ooh, he's slinking toward us because he wants to be petted. What would your friend be thinking? Same thing? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe s/he's thinking, that dog is so dirty, look at those teeth!, oh-no, it's creeping close enough to attack. 

As you write (or channel) your characters, keep in mind that they won't always think as you do. They won't notice the same things. They may not have the same beliefs as you.  Of course, that's true only if those characters come to life and move beyond being just characters you thought up.

Currently, I'm in New Mexico on a business trip with my husband. The trip's been on my calendar for a while now. But, being the procrastinator that I'm prone to be, I hadn't even thought about what I needed to pack. So I asked him what events I would be attending at the conference. He said, one formal dinner, one nice dinner, one casual dinner. Finally, three days before we left, I decided I'd better figure out what I had to wear. So I rummaged through my closet and tried on three dresses and walked the "runway" from my closet to my husband's office to get his opinion. Soon after I'd settled on three dresses, he gave me the itinerary. I looked it over and then asked, "Did you notice that this 'nice' dinner is actually a Fifties Party? He hadn't. He's been to so many conferences, he just packs suits and underwear and walks on the plane. I'm not kidding. I've seen him leave for a three-night trip and take nothing but his briefcase.

We are different. He is the ultimate traveler and most efficient packer. I am not. We've lived together enough years that in a lot of ways, we're alike. But in more ways, we're different. This is reality. Your characters should live in a "real" world, as well. Make each character unique. Let them be the people they are. Don't force them to do what you need them to do. They must do what they need to do.

Before you leave, tell me what I should wear to a Fifties party. Rolled up jeans and white tennis shoes? What did teens wear back then?


  1. Sorry, I wasn't born until the next decade. Go watch an episode of Happy Days. Maybe you could dress like the Fonz?

  2. Eww...poodle skirts and saddle shoes. I'd opt for the rolled up jeans and tennis shoes and to hell with their "nice" dinner. :)
    It's very difficult, but important, to wrench your mind away from your own reaction and give your character another.

  3. Who sells poodle skirts these days? As you might have guessed, I packed jeans, a white shirt and a scarf to tie my hair into a ponytail.

  4. Helen, there's a costume rental place in Albuquerque called Dance Tyme on Menaul near San Pedro. You could rent a poodle skirt there. If not, you could do regular jeans, a white t-shirt with a pack of cigarettes in the sleeve and be James Dean. Oh, and a cigarette dangling from your mouth.
    Have fun!

  5. If you go with the jeans and tee-shirt, get a small scarf that you can tie around your neck with the tails off to the side. Then you be cool.

    I had a poodle skirt as a child, except that it had a rooster on it, which I think made it a roodle skirt. You be the judge:

  6. Well, if one of my characters wants to wear a poodle skirt, he darn well can ... I wouldn't, be he can.

  7. I think Grease and Happy Days ideas would work - the rolled up jeans and high pony tails should work :)

  8. I was born in the 60s, so not sure what the 50s were like. Maybe you can watch a James Dean movie to get some inspiration?

    Cold As Heaven

  9. Cute dog. It's probably got rabies... No, that would be Stephen King, wouldn't it?

    Don't know what you should wear, but be sure to take a hula-hoop.

  10. Thank you all for your fabulous (and slightly weird) suggestions. I ended up wearing jeans (rolled up a bit), a white shirt, white tennis shoes with blue and white laces, and my hair up in a high ponytail with a scarf around the band. After we got to the party, I unrolled my pants, took down my hair and got rid of the scarf. I was the only person who had even remotely dressed as the 50s, except for one woman who came in late and was wearing a poodle skirt. It worked out okay since both my husband and I were wearing jeans and white shirts.


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