Two Words That Writers Should Avoid at All Costs by Misha Herwin

Renegade Writers

Picture the situation. It’s writing group. You have read out your work to fellow writers and now you are sitting back waiting for the feedback. You’re nervous naturally; none of us find it easy to take what we perceive as criticism, but in general you think that what you’ve brought isn’t too bad. There are of course one or two tweaks you know you should make, but it works well, or does it?

According to the group, there are flaws, quite major ones. A character does not convince, a historical piece contains glaring anachronisms, the dialogue is clumsy, the sex scenes risible. At this point you are desperate to defend your work. “Yes but…” you begin.

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Clothes maketh the man/woman

I have just spent the last two hours deciding what to wear. T shirts lie abandoned on my bed, skirts slump over chairs, jacket sag on cupboard doors. This is not because I am vain, it’s because I have to make up my mind on a suitable outfit for going out to lunch. The trouble is I don’t know where we’re going. Is it a pub? A restaurant? If the latter, will it be casual, or a little dressy? Do I go as a lady who lunches in a county town or an artist who drinks real ale in her local?

Whatever I choose it will say something about me and what I expect of the occasion. Which is why what we wear matters so much. It gives the onlooker so many clues about the image we want to project on that particular occasion.

And this is exactly why clothes matter when it comes to creating character. Even one garment can say so much, the red shoes v the brown brogues. I was thinking on female feet but transfer that to a male character to see how potent the choice of footwear can be.

In “Clear Gold” Mouse wears a plain tunic and trousers, practical clothes for a fighter. She doesn’t understand why what they wear matters to other girls, or indeed to Lanyon. In “Dragonfire” Polly is always dressed in scruffy jeans and a jumper with a twig on a string around her neck. Courtleigh, on the other hand is a real cool dresser, while Miss A is characterised by her button boots and patchwork bag. 

And so it goes on, with each character I write I see what clothes they wear.

As for me, this morning, I finally settled on a linen skirt, patterned T shirt, amber earrings, sandals and a denim jacket. I only hope it doesn’t rain.