Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Jeanne Adams: Leopard Print, Bubble Gum, and the Art of Characterization…

Have you ever seen the movie, Grease?  The bouffant hairdos, the poodle skirts, leopard print and the gum-snapping pink ladies are all caricatures of 1950s rebel-girl glam.  What about Breakfast at Tiffanys, or Sixteen Candles?  Those movies have their stereotypes too – the glamour girl, the misfit teen.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons 
One of the great things about being a writer is that you can use those “types” to instantly identify a character in the mind of the reader.  If I tell you a girl went from glasses and pigtails to contacts, a prom dress and an up-do, you get the Cinderella Story immediately.  Or, if I tell you the hoodlum wore slouchy jeans and a hoodie, you know the “type” don’t you?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Now, let’s play!  As a writer, I love to turn those stereotypes on their heads, and have the gum-snapping “old-fashioned secretary” with her graying bouffant, and tatty leopard handbag be an international spy.  Or make the hoodlum be an MBA from Harvard, caught out in the rain in his younger brother’s hoodie, and getting shot by the police because they too believed the “type.”

I love putting the character in the mind of the reader one way – the stereotype – then showing how both the reader and heroine/hero realize and uncover the “real” person underneath.  For example, in my forthcoming book, Deadly Charms, Sheriff Reece Bowen has to work with a woman he considers to be a hoity-toity New Yorker because she has, as he puts it, “styled hair and wears leopard print.” 

He has her pegged, or so he thinks. 

Suzanne Packe relocated to rural Virginia, because she’s recovering from a devastating life experience.  I won’t tell you what, but suffice to say, it’s important!  She IS from New York –upstate New York – and yes, she made her fortune in high-end, custom jewelry in the wilds of Manhattan. 

That doesn’t make her a city slicker, or stupid when it comes to murder.  In Deadly Charms, Reece and Suzanne have to dismiss the stereotypes and find the real person underneath the “city slicker” and the “Southern sheriff” they each see.  Suzanne saw someone dump a woman in the woods, and saved her life.  The woman’s only identification is a charm bracelet.  They have to use Suzanne’s expertise in jewelry to identify their Jane Doe, because someone really, really, REALLY wants her dead.  And since she helped save Jane Doe, that same someone wants Suzanne, and her gorgeous Michael Kors leopard print shoes, dead too.  (You’ll have to download Deadly Charms at the end of this month to get the WHOLE story!)

Thing is, I’ve got a problem.  It’s the leopard print.  It used to be that if you described someone as wearing spandex and leopard print (picture that for me!), then you were talking “cheap trailer trash”, a hooker, an exercise junkie on the way to the gym, or someone in a Halloween costume.  C’mon now, you ALL know what I mean!  And I use that to the maximum with Reece in his impression of Suzanne.

However, as you probably have already know, animal prints are “it” in fashion.  They’re everywhere.  Purses, dresses, scarves, and shoes.  Ev-Re-Where.  And trust me, some of those animal prints will make your charge card screeeeeeeam for mercy – those Michael Kors shoes, for instance! 

Can you think of a recent book you’ve read where the character leaped into your mind, full blown, because of the way the author described his or her clothes and style?

Let’s talk fashion!  Do you own a jacket, dress or other item with an animal print?  I happen to love, love, love animal prints, so I have a LOT of it – and yes, I do my best NOT to look like a hooker OR a Halloween junkie.  (Even though I AM a Halloween Junkie!)
And one last question….What are you going to be for Halloween?


Mary Preston said...

I'm actually not a fan of animal print & we don't celebrate Halloween here in Australia.

Now that I have been such a downer - I feel like I should make you a cup of tea or something.

Lory Lee said...

No, don't have any animal print possession. Don't have against them, but I know I don't look good on them specially snake printed shoes, bags or clothes (maybe because I'm scared of snakes :(

Pat Cochran said...

Hi, Jeanne! I am the owner of a light
weight leopard print jacket. I've worn
it to Sunday Mass and I'm not the only
animal print fan in our congregation.
Several other ladies have worn various
clothing items in animal print, espe-
cially in leopard. Looking forward to
reading Deadly Charms!

Pat C.

Anna Campbell said...

Oh, what a fun post, Jeanne! I have to say one of the things I adore about an Audrey Hepburn film, especially as she moved into the 60s, was the fashion. I remember going to an exhibition of her costumes in Sydney after her death and being really surprised to see them in real life. She was an incredibly tall woman and she had BIG FEET!!! Somehow she's always seemed so delicate to me so it was kind of endearing to see the huge shoes! If Audrey kicked you down, I have a feeling you wouldn't have got up again in a hurry.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Mary! Thanks to my Romance Bandits pals from Aus, I knew ya'll didn't celebrate my favorite Holiday. Grins. And I'll always take a cup of tea. Earl Grey or English Breakfast, if you have it... Grins.

I'm an animal print fan, but in moderation. For instance, all those photos I snapped at the local Macy's are things I wouldn't wear. Grins. The bag, on the other hand, I carry everyday. Go figure!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Heehee! Lory Lee, I don't like the snake prints either. *shudder* and for the same reason. Do. Not. Like. Snakes.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Pat! Good for you! I do love it, in moderation, don't you? It can be really snappy. Wearing an entire outfit of zebra stripes would be beyond my comfort zone, however! Ha!

I hope you'll like Deadly Charms!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi Anna! Thanks for popping in over here! :> You know, I had no idea she was tall. I pictured her as petite. Goes to show what I know, doesn't it? Grins. That's so funny about the kicking. Snork!

So do you like the animal prints, Anna?

Di said...

I might like a subtle print in a jack, bag or boots.

Eli Yanti said...

No I won't own a jacket, dress or other item with an animal print