Monday, July 02, 2012

Posted by Laurel Garver on Monday, July 02, 2012 8 comments

How do your characters feel in their own skin? Self-conscious? Cocky? Healthy? Despairing? Blissfully carefree?

Hang out at a pool for any length of time, and you'll soon notice a wide variety of embodied responses to being nearly naked in public. The pool is a great venue to observe how body image plays out in behavior. Some love to flaunt their assets (or their perception thereof). Others cringe and hide. Some step out tentatively and watch always for reactions. Others are too distracted to care how they look. Some drag their bodies around as if wearing flesh were a tiresome ordeal. Others joyfully skip from here to there, glad to be alive. Some relish the cool water. Others prefer baking in the sun or ducking into the shade to read.

Here's an exercise for thinking through character body image: Imagine your character at the pool. How does she behave? What sort of swimsuit does he choose? How readily does she let herself been seen, and by whom? Whose attention does he hope to win? Who does she feel judges her?

Would this exercise help your characterization? What did you learn from it?


This is a repost from July 2010

8 comments:

  1. This would be an excellent way to get to know one's characters as I think would be fairly easy for any of us to imagine ourselves in that position.

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    1. Glad it sounds useful. How people carry themselves in this situation does tell you a lot about their body image.

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  2. This is a great idea and luckily I'm going to a pool tomorrow, so now I"m going to be watching everyone.

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    1. I find those who are comfortable with themselves as fascinating to watch as those who aren't. The contrasting way they move is pretty easy to spot.

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  3. What an awesome idea! It also has a lot to do with culture. I wrote a scene I absolutely adore in the course of my character improv online with a friend, in which my epic fantasy characters go to California with her urban fantasy characters. My characters put on shorts (the guy) and a sundress (the girl) for the first time. The girl can't stop laughing at the sight of everyone else's knobby knees.

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    1. Body image is incredibly culturally dependent. Go to any art museum and you'll see the ideals of beauty and the level of modesty change vastly over time and across places. In much of times past, people were far less image conscious and more concerned with bodily skill--strength, agility, fortitude, that sort of thing.

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  4. Also, living near the ocean as I do, going to the beach makes showing your flaws a matter of pure convenience. It just gets old after a while trying to cover up all your stretch marks and fat. I used to be so self-conscious but after fifteen years I just put my suit on and go. Nobody is looking at me, anyway. They're looking at the sand and the water and the sky and the kids who might get pulled out to sea any moment.

    I figure I make the young girls look even hotter by contrast. It's my gift to the world to be unattractive and not care!

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    1. Comparison is such flexible thing, though. When I spend a few days with my mom in her retirement community, I feel quite vigorous and fit compared to the octogenarians. :-) I've definitely found at the gym I joined (the members there run the gamut from burly guys to morbidly obese women) that everyone is there to just take better care of themselves, no need to be shy or nervous.

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