Monday 29 March 2010

Dresses and/or Food

So I accept that my UF heroine cannot spend the whole book running around killing zombies and slaying vampires - apart from anything else that would be boring! Sometimes she has to do other things - research, investigation, snog the handsome werewolf. But authors also include other things to flesh out the world in which the heroine/hero lives. I'm going to discuss two of them today - one of which bores me to tears, and the other which I love. Quite what this says about me I'm not sure.

I am bored to death by pages and pages of description about CLOTHES!

I've just read a book where the heroine spends four pages trying on various outfits and shoes, along with loving descriptions of the line, cut and colour. Arrrgghhhhhh go and slay some creature from hell already!

If it's necessary to the plot, tell me it's a purple dress, if you must, tell me it's a purple Vera Wang - like I know what that means, I'm more of a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal. But I don't care that it's a purple 'whoever' from this season, cut down to here, slashed up to there, in soft velvet with a cotton and lace trim, a scalloped hemline and gold thread detailing. If I want that much information I'll read about it in Vogue or Glamour (not). Can we get back to killing zombies now?

I also hate when authors put their heroines in impractical clothes. She's running after a vampire over uneven ground in four inch heels.



These loving outfit descriptions often seem to go hand in hand with a plethora of designer name dropping. Which usually leaves me wondering if the author is getting some kind of commission.

Rant over.

Descriptions of food on the other hand....drifts off a little. If an author can write a brilliant description of an apple pie, warm from the oven, buttery pastry crumbling underneath a knife to reveal a juicy filling and just the hint of cinnamon in the steam. I am sold.

I love authors who can write wonderful descriptions of food. Maybe this is because I'm usually reading in between meals and if I read for a long time I start to get hungry. Maybe I'm more forgiving of food descriptions (because unlike clothes, which often feel quite two-dimensional to me) because they involve so many senses - taste, touch, sight, smell - they make the world of the characters feel more solid, more real.

Maybe it's because food is easier to weave into the plot - discussions over meal times help reveal things about characters, as can what the characters eat and how they eat it. Whereas changing clothes or trying different outfits on, stops the action. I'm more willing to linger over scenes set around meals, trying to take everything in; outfit changes? I just want to get onto the next bit of plot.

Thoughts? Comments? Do you prefer food or clothes? Or are there other extraneous descriptions that get on your nerves.

I have a copy of Lord of the Dark Sun by Stobie Piel to give away to one poster to this thread. Name to be chosen by random number at on Friday/Saturday.


Jenre said...

I'm with you on this one Lesley. Clothes bore me. I have no idea about designer labels and any heroine who spends a lengthy amount of time thinking about clothes makes me wonder whether she is really as intelligent as she needs to be for the zombie killing.

As for food. Well I love food and I love reading about it. I once did a post ages ago bemoaning the fact that UF heroines never eat. How can they kill zombies when they are half starving? I think it's an interesting point that you make about using meal times to forward the plot. As long as they actually finish the meal I'm happy. I get really cross when characters prepare meals and then never eat/finish them.

Jenre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicole said...

For myself, I have no problem with clothing descriptions -- if it fits the heroine. But don't give her a clothes fetish merely as a word count filler. Make it an actual personality trait, and I'm fine. Make her a clothes horse because "all the hip UF heroines are doing it" and there will be a case of book-meet-wall. (Example: in Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld series, Elena doesn't care much about clothes, so descriptions rarely show up. Paige, on the other hand, does care, so mention of her outfit choice is appropriate.)

Food: for me, same thing. Give me a purpose for it (and a good description), and I'm all for mealtimes. Otherwise, a brief note about swinging by the Burger King works just as well as a drawn-out contemplation of a milkshake melting on a diner counter.

Renee said...

I guess it depends on the heroine's personality. If it reflects something about her character (like Corinne in Blue Diablo) I'm good with it.

However, I'm good with a down to earth heroine who isn't a clothes horse.

Where I sort of want some of that detail is in a historical, since clothes were so much more elaborate. Though, I've been off historicals for the last 4-5 months.

D. B. Reynolds said...

I want to know what the characters are wearing, but that's it. In seduction scenes, it's always nice to have the seducer's view of the seducee's sexy underwear. And I'm with you on running in four inch heels with breasts popping out of a corset so tight the female can hardly breathe. NOT.

I can enjoy food descriptions, but not too much, and as long as it's in context. Like maybe a vamp who'd love a nice chocolate mousse, but it just doesn't taste good anymore.

Linda said...

I am not a cloths horse, so for me discriptions of what the caracters have on, should be discriptive, and not go on and on. Sort of the same for food. But I have to agree, that having the caracter in in the wrong shoes or outfit drives me crazy, unless it is part of the story line. For example, the caracter is out at the Opera, that should be the only reason why she would be chasing someone in a long formal and high heels.

Mary said...

It may seem kind of odd, but I dislike over long descriptions about settings. Anything in depth about architecture or paint color or whatever just makes me skip over. Bleh.

LesleyW said...

Jenre - Great minds. lol. I made myself hungry writing about that apple pie.

Nicole - I think if the clothing description is there to serve a purpose I'm happy with that. It's just when the heroine goes on and on about her latest designer wardrobe that I start to switch off and turn pages until we're back with the plot again.

LesleyW said...

Renee - I don't often read historicals. I think the closest I've come recently is Soulless by Gail Carriger. And I agree that of the clothing is going to be different to what you're used to seeing then you do need a description so you can fix it in your mind. Also little details can help - like the fact that Alexia has two hairpins one made of wood and one made of silver. But that also serves to tell you something about her character.

LesleyW said...

DBR - I'm starting to realize I have a real food fixation lol. I think partly because I do find it helps me imagine a character more easily if I can see how and what they eat.

Linda - good point about spotting a vampire at the opera. I think you've come up with the only reason when it's appropriate for the heroine to be chasing an undead creature of the night in evening dress.

LesleyW said...

Mary - strangely I quite like descriptions of buildings. But not too much. And I think this is perhaps because I've been reading quite a bit of steampunk recently and it's almost an inherent part of the genre.