Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What if Scarlett O'Hara was a blonde...

I love historicals. Reading them, writing them.

And creating the perfect heroine. But is she a blonde, a brunette or a redhead? We writers wrestle with this question every time we put fingertips to keyboard. Sometimes the character is so clear in our minds, we know for certain she’s a natural blonde (and if she isn’t, well, we won’t tell--it’s up to the hero to see if the collar matches the cuffs).

Imagine if Scarlett O’Hara was a blonde…

Do you remember the vivid opening scene with Scarlett surrounded by the redheaded Tarleton twins? Her beautiful dark hair provided a rich halo around her face and provided a contrast against her white organdy dress with flounces and flounces of ruffles. The red belt cinching in her tiny waist was the perfect accent piece to complete her outfit.

Was this what Margaret Mitchell envisioned when she wrote “Gone With the Wind?”

In a word, no.

Ms. Mitchell describes a “green flowered-muslin” dress, not the white one. Although in the film, Scarlett does show up at the Twelve Oaks BBQ in a similar dress (who can ever forget the scene in the film when Scarlett throws a porcelain bowl across the room not knowing Rhett is lying on the couch out of her pov and he pops up with the line: “Has the war started yet?” Pure classic romantic attraction).

Which brings me to the question: how important to you as a writer and/or reader is the heroine’s hair color?

Her clothes?

Do you enjoy reading descriptions of what she’s wearing? Do designer labels intrigue you or turn you off?

I must admit I enjoyed designing my heroine’s wardrobe in “The Blonde Samurai” about a Victorian heiress who weds a British lord then falls in love with a handsome samurai.

Here is what Katie O’Roarke as Lady Carlton wore at a grand dinner:

“…Which was why I chose the color red. A defiant color, bold and perfect. I relished how the velvet gown in crushed strawberry hugged my body, the small cap sleeves sliding down my bare shoulders while the tiered soft bustle swayed behind me, the long train sweeping over the muted Oriental carpets. A long row of pearl buttons gave off an opaline luster, racing down my back like a game of dominoes."

Tell me what you think about whether or not a description of the heroine’s
hair color and her wardrobe enrich the story for you.

Frankly, my dear reader, I do give a damn…


Michelle Polaris said...

As you described Scarlett from the movie I realized I did give a movies. Scarletts wardrobe and look enhanced the character. But in my books I think I'm the exception and don't focus much on costume or hair as I read. I force myself to think these issues through when I write, but my choice has little impact on my vision of the story. Again, I believe I'm an exception and most people would agree with you Jina. Great post!

Wynter Daniels said...

I give a damn, too;-) I like some description of clothing and hair, just not so much that it slows the pace of the story.

Jina Bacarr said...

Michelle, I think you've pinpointed a vital difference between film and novel: film is all about what you see and hear; a novelist has to work "harder" to evoke emotions--and each writer has their own style!

Jina Bacarr said...

Wynter, you have also hit the proverbial nail on the head: too much description can take away from the story. It's like those rows and rows of flounces on Scarlett's dress--better to be seen in the film than described in the novel row upon row...