When I was in third grade, I wrote a story and let one of my classmates read it. His name was Bruce Taylor, a chubby little kid much like myself but he was one of the nicer kids in my class.
After he read the story he handed it back to me. He’d rewritten it. At the time it kinda ticked me off. Not because he had rewritten it but because he did it in a rather mocking way.
Looking back, I see now he was trying to get a point across with humor.
I had created witty dialogue between two characters: one a mafia-type boss, the other his underling. I cannot for the life of me recall the dialogue or the subject of conversation.
What my friend, Bruce Taylor, did was poke fun at the fact that I had not included descriptions of clothing on my characters.
I hadn’t given it that much thought. After all, everyone knows characters wear clothes, right?
Years later, I have come to realize that I do, at times, fall short when clothing my characters. It doesn’t mean they’re naked. It just means since I see them fully clothed in my head, I make the assumption the reader does as well.
It is erroneous thinking on my part. Just because I visualize my character wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt doesn’t mean the reader won’t see her or him in a sundress or a three-piece suit.
It’s important to look at your characters closely. Analyze not only their physical description but the clothing she or he wears on their backs, as well.
Clothing description doesn’t have to be that detailed, unless your character is a meticulous dresser or dresses gregariously like Gregorio in Sword of Tilk Book Two: Strange Land. Gregorio purposefully wore very colorful tunics and shirts to attract attention, even of the negative sort.
All it takes is a quick mention of “She was comfortable in ragged jeans and an old t-shirt” for the reader to see what your character is wearing.
Sometimes the clothing she or he wears can also help define the character or give a little insight into her or his personality. For instance, “He wore khakis and a Polo shirt even though it was Saturday,” tells the reader this guy doesn’t lounge around in his PJs even on the weekend. It gives the impression he may be too cultured for cut-off blue jeans and holey t-shirts.
By the same token, “She appeared in court wearing faded jeans with holes in the knees and a halter top with no bra” shows a degree of disrespect for authority, even though this manner of dress in a court of law may seem the norm these days.
So, when you go in for the editing session, pay close attention to what your characters are wearing. Don’t let them walk around naked. Get some clothes on ’em!