We’ve all done it, or dreamed of doing it – pretended for a short time that we are someone else. Someone exotic and interesting, perhaps a fascinating femme fatale or a heroine from a favourite book.
Here in Australia, whenever Book Week rolls around most schools have a costume parade where children get the fun of dressing as Harry Potter, Heidi or whatever fictional character most appeals. And the kids respond enthusiastically – there’s something so liberating about becoming someone else, even for a few short hours.
Costume parties are a perennial favourite and I know that all around the world festivals abound where people are invited to tug on a costume or a mask and enter a world of make believe for a few hours. Mardi Gras, Carnivale, Fasching and Halloween all beckon as chances to let down your hair, frock up in something outlandish or stunning and take on a new persona. In a world where most of us are busy being responsible, sensible and careful (most of the time) the lure of a mask or a costume is irresistible.
My most recent experience of this was at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference where the cocktail party theme was Venetian Carnivale. Wow! What a night. So many smiles. So many masks, cloaks, feathers, fabulous costumes and general glitter. The idea of a costume party at the Conference has been fantastically successful since so many people love to dress up and because there’s no pressure to do so. The rest of the attendees get to admire and chat about the costumes. It’s a terrific ice breaker as well as being enormous fun. The woman in gold here is one of our members. Hi Christine!
Perhaps too, some of the success of that party was because these were authors attending, people who make their living, or hope to, from exercising their imaginations and creating fantasy worlds. For most of the year we work alone, in well appointed offices (I wish!) or in a corner somewhere, trying to block out the rest of the world and enter the realm of our latest story. After a year of solo writing no wonder we were ready for some outlandish celebrations. But more than that, I think people who love books also have a love of make believe which allows them to enjoy fictitious worlds, even if only for a few hours.
How many romance readers would love to spend an evening being Cinderella at her ball or Elizabeth Bennett being courted by Mr Darcy? One of my own personal fantasies as a girl was taking Grace Kelly’s place in the movie ‘To Catch a Thief’. I’d go to the masked ball wearing that stunning gold ball gown and dance with Cary Grant!
I’m sure learned books and articles have been written on why people like to make believe, explaining the primitive urge for fantasy, escape, release, or just plain fun. I just know it works, especially if I haven’t had to spend a fortune on a costume.
I suspect that writing romance feeds the desire to escape from the mundane world and stand for a while in someone else’s shoes. To experience the exotic for just a little while. When I write I can be my heroine – strong and confident in situations where I’d be a nervous wreck in real life. Or petite and delicately vulnerable (at around 5’10” I’ve never been described as petite!). I can live my heroine’s exciting life just for a little while, then safely return to my own. The best of both worlds!
What do you think? Do you like to pretend by playing make believe in costume or do you unleash that urge only in the books you read or write? What would be your favourite costume or character for a masquerade?
Annie is currently grappling with another fictitious world, one where the heroine occasionally gets to wear silks and satins and where the hero has just FINALLY realised he can’t live without her. Sigh.
If you want to dip into one of Annie's favourite alternative realities, check out her most recent release for Harlequin Presents – 'For the Sheikh's Pleasure'.