My husband bought me a T-shirt which reads: Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel.
I don’t normally wear T-shirts with writing on them in public, but tomorrow, I’ll boldly be wearing this one at the Leilapalooza Music Fest in Battle Creek, MI. Because I write historical fiction (with some fantasy books tossed in), I have an 1850’s hoop skirt outfit I wear to presentations, or an 1890’s Victorian outfit to do the same. But a music festival with sixty bands playing throughout the day and evening on six stages? Naw. Victorian clothing would not be the proper attire. Perhaps if I went more steam-punk, but I haven’t got that. So… a grey T-shirt with “Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel” seems appropriate. (Who would have ever thought when I started writing decades ago that I would have to make fashion decisions when presenting or representing my books?)
Of course, I have a disclaimer in the front pages of my books about any similarity to characters being coincidental, plus I wouldn’t make a big, bad bully in my real life recognizable for fear of my life. I’d change the age, gender, nationality, etc. Unrecognizable, except in my memory. There are some characters out there in real life who are stunning, and I don’t mean that in the beautiful sort of way, but in the stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks-and-hope-they-don’t-catch-you-staring sort of way. After attending nine Sturgis Motorcycle Rallys in South Dakota, I can tell you that not many outfits or lack thereof surprise me. But characterization goes far deeper than just the clothing.
They used to be refered to as “tags” — various aspects of a person’s character. The style of clothing. Color of hair, eyes, skin. A “prop,” like a pipe or wand or parrot on shoulder. A physical character, like a twitch, chewing on a toothpick, or the walk. The voice, scratchy, low, stuttering. Actions and reactions. Introvert or extrovert. Much variety.
People are made up of many characteristics. So tomorrow as I sit in my booth, smiling at you, telling you about history and hoping you’ll buy one of my books, my warning holds: Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel.