Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Q&A: Hair color?

 During a recent interview I offered; "I wrote the first draft as a gift for my sister, and she is a plot detective. She also objects to nearly every cliche known to novelists, so I was particularly hard pressed to create this character and her story arc.  I plotted out a fresh course, and it passed muster with Abigail, so I think I have succeeded.
  So Fia doesn't have golden, jet, or fiery red hair. Just an ordinary rusty-brown. She isn't gorgeous, willowy, wonderful or has all the young men falling in love with her...
Which prompted a reader to say...

Red hair: popular with even the Old Masters.
  Q: Come, come, what's cliched about red hair? ;-)

  A: What's cliched about red hair? Aww... come on! What's not cliche about it? ;-)
 I mean, really!
 Okay, maybe it's not as cliched as golden, but it's sort of become a "stock item" on the Mary Sue list! Sorry! ;-)
  (Oh! And I just thought of why. All those racy romance novels you see in the book section of thrift stores. Count 'em. LOTS of red heads. Why? I assume because it's sensational, like everything else in those books. ;-) )

  And yes, I can understand that if you actually, indeed, really and truly, have red hair it would change your perspective. (You must have been very happy when you read Anne of Green Gables. ;-) )

  But imagine my perspective, if you will. I happen to have... not jet black tresses, not golden locks, not a flaming mane, NOR chocolate curls. I have an in-between color. How many heroines have in between color of hair? I ask you!
  (And yes, when I read Anne of Green Gables I became so heart-ached about the fact that my hair was Not Red, that I didn't get over it for years. Literally, years.)

  And, here I was trying to draw a cliche-free heroine. (Also raise a banner to all those future little girls who have in-between hair, and feel that other people are all prettier, more glamorous, etc. then themselves. *Psst! To all those future girls: It's not your hair color! Hair color is nothing. It's Personality, and a good Attitude. THAT is what makes people attractive/glamorous/insert-adjective-here. Who you are, not what. It's much more complicated. And only you have control over Who.* )

  I did find, though, that all cliche-free hair colors seem also to be, across the board, awfully hard to describe; without stopping the flow for a paragraph so we can explain just how "every day" this heroine's hair color is. (Maddening!)
   I now have a huge understanding to all those authors who slap down, "She flicked her fiery hair over her shoulder," "The breeze riffled through the golden strands," and "In the crowd, her hair shone black as midnight."

That was Easy.

And effective.
    Instant portrait.

You could say; "But, if it's easy, where's the challenge?"
And I could say; "We're writing a novel here! Over 50k words of action, emotion, plot twists, plot line, back story, foreshadowing... all of which we have to keep suspended in glittering array before the readers tired eyes until the last page closes. What do you mean 'Where's the challenge?'!"

   But in all truth, red heads are awfully fun to write. I've been working on another, unrelated story, (which is a blast!) in which we're temporarily dealing with a red headed cont-agonist. (The heroine's hair is a dutifully dull, but easily described; straw color. {Hey, give me a break! I got to cut corners every once in a while!} )
   The redhead is a spicy little eye full; ...which red heads everywhere will probably be glad isn't them.
And she's tons of fun to write.

 What's the most fun for you to read about?


Mary Ruth Pursselley said...

I don't know that I've ever thought about it with this specific approach. Hmmm...
I do know that as a writer, I struggle with characters' physical descriptions (How much is too much? How little is too little? How much does the reader want?) and so I tend to gloss over them. Not a good habit. The heroine of my first novel does have hair that's not chocolate brown, not really black... so I just talk about her 'dark hair' most of the time. Chances are the readers will get the idea. (That's the theory, anyway.)

PrincessR said...

Hahaha! Funny post. I do believe it is so boring to have the same hair colors. I don't particularly want a whole paragraph on her hair color, but a good sentence is never bad. I do want to have a bit of help for my imagination in conjuring up this heroine. I mean, if I make her really tall she would be hitting her head on the doorframe if the writer made a small house!

Redheads are fun! But that is beccause they are really spunky- we have one in our house. :) They also have tempers to match, though! Anne of Green Gables did a good job of showing that!

For me, my favorite books are the ones where the writer takes the time to really build the character. I want to know her better than I know myself. (OK, not literally!)

This is probably something longer than you wanted, but as an avid reader I had to give my two-cents! I can't wait to hear more about this book you are writing!


Elizabeth K. said...

Ha! Mary Ruth, that is a safe place to go for. "Dark hair" can mean anything the reader wants it to mean. :-)

PrincessR, that is a great comment! Thanks so much for taking the time to get to the meat of the matter! I appreciate your thoughts here.
I agree with you there, I don enjoy a good clear snippet of description that will bring a clear image to mind. But again, too much just muddles the water!
And yes, bringing the character across is most important... I really love to know the inner workings of a fictional character, something that so many books kind of fail to do, in my opinion.
So, I've kind of wondered if I was the only one!
Thanks for verifying that I wasn't! :-)

And; which book? The one with Fia, or the straw colored heroine?
(Fia's is out already! :-) )