Saturday, April 9, 2016

At the 16:44 Mark

Janet Reid's post today was about deconstructing characters in the BAD way. Reducing women to anatomy and tossing hair - or, for that matter, men. Janet's sensitivity this poor writing has increased in the current political climate, but pointless physical descriptions of characters has irritated me for YEARS now. I can remember the time I had to tell a guy for whom I was beta reading, "If I NEVER read another scene in which a woman looks at herself in the mirror and mentally assesses her physical appeal, it will be too soon" and he had absolutely no idea that was bad. He'd read it so many times ... and, unfortunately that alone wasn't a hint in itself.

I will admit to having a little fun, early on in my work on the WIP, writing a scene in which my at-that-time MC visited her mother's homeland in Gaul, meeting Clovis I (her uncle), and describing him in some detail. His whole court.

This sort of cutting-room-floor personal amusement is the reason I say even *now* anything I "write" in the WIP is subject to trashing.

One of the most memorable descriptions of a character I ever read was in Pippin, the moment we get a paean of joy to the arch of a foot. Colleen McCullough once arrested my attention memorably with a sex scene that started with a description of the line of downy, soft hair that descended from a woman's nape down to her spine; a feature which in this day and age might well be used to delineate a woman's irredeemable hideousness.

Writing Clovis, I used almost no descriptors at all; for a first-person novel from the POV of a character little concerned with his lieutenants' looks, to do otherwise would have been disingenuous. His physical interest in his wife is palpable, but through his eyes we see little more of her than the mole that charms him and her slender, tiny hands (a feature I borrowed from my oldest friend in life, TEO, and even then gave little detail). One character I did "draw" to resemble myself. She dies early in the going, and that was an intentional reminder to myself: my characters are not my avatars.

It's at 17:55 things truly get epic with Julia Sugarbaker's epic takedown above, but starting in at 16:44 is good for context. Give it a few minutes. Donald Trump does crop up, and it's absolutely perfect.

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