Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Appearances are important to characterization

Recently some of my students have been following the "scene" mode of styling their hair. I don't fully understand the term, but it appears to be a kinder, gentler version of emo, not dark or requiring heavy makeup or dyed hair.  But it does create a look that tends to ride the edge of the norm.  So I was thinking how one day a student can look like the average girl next door, reliable, kind, quiet.  The next day she walks in and a statement is made that marks her as not one of the group, not the girl next door but the one across the street that people make up rumors about.  The girl that is not "bad" but is not greeted by everyone.

That is what characterization is.  Small shifts from the norm that make the character stand out with a certain image immediately created by a part in the hair made so far to the left that the bangs must lay low across the forehead. The long hair is all brought forward to the front, so a split occurs in the back at the neck line, as though the person only has a front she shows to everyone, the back similar to the facade of a building put up for a movie set.  The front looks real enough, but the back lacks all the depth of a real building.  This can be used to create character.  Certainly the real live girl, has depth, but in the novel or short story, such a "front" can act as a thin veneer hiding the reality within.  It builds mystery, which one might believe is the purpose of the "scene" image for these teenage girls I teach.

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