Thursday, May 27, 2010

Characters and Their Hats


"...it was the kind of hat that would be worn by someone who not only thought but also came to conclusions of an important and vital kind."
~Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

The right hat complements a character. It gives the reader a clue to the inner workings of that character. Will the little freckled lad shove a baseball cap on his head before running outside to play? Is the femme fatale's satin cocktail hat black or maybe even purple? Is Curious George's human companion the man in a big yellow hat?

Aside from all the characterization-useful-writing device mumbo jumbo, hats are super fun! Don't forget, readers want to have a little fun. Douglas Adams' detective character, Dirk Gently, habitually wears a round dark red hat with a very flat brim.

 "As a hat it was a remarkable rather than entirely successful piece of personal decoration. It would make an elegant adornment, stylish, shapely and flattering, if the wearer were a small bedside lamp, but not otherwise." ~Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency


In Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys, the reoccurring image of the green fedora that smells like cigars is interesting, fun, and holds symbolism . Wearing the hat, in this case, signals the character's personal growth and new found confidence.

"Some hats can only be worn if you're willing to be jaunty, to set them at an angle and to walk beneath them with a spring in your stride as if you're only a step away from dancing. They demand a lot of you. This hat was one of those, and Charlie was up to it." ~Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

How about your characters? What hats are they wearing? I have one who wears a tweed cap. Sometimes he spins it on his finger or holds it on his head when he does one-handed cart wheels.

Cool website on hat history.

How about a brand new leopard skin pill box hat?



16 comments:

Lydia Kang said...

My MC wears a hat. Actually, it hides her long hair so people think she's a man. It's a huge part of her persona!

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Brilliant, Lydia! :)
That reminds me of when we first got our motorcycle. My husband insisted I get a full face helmet. At first I felt it make me look dumb and unfeminine. Now I feel cool in it. Great disguise because I'm such a geek! :p

Aubrie said...

Oh no! None of my character shave hats! Unless you count a medieval battle helmet. I've got to think about giving out some hats :)

Amanda Borenstadt said...

@Aubrie~ Helmets are important. But get your characters to a hatter at once! LOL :) And it's fun to research correct period hats.

Angie said...

I love hats! I have a bunch myself, and it really was a sign of growth in me when I started wearing them. Why haven't I given my characters hats? I must correct this!

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Yay, Angie! Hats are fun. Whenever I see someone with a neat hat I can't help but smile.

You know, I wrote this post with an ulterior motive. I like to read stories where the characters have hats. LOL :)

karabu said...

Thinking about what kind of hats people in the future would wear to go to another planet in. . .
why do you always make me think so hard!

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Kara, they wear black bowlers of course. LOL ;)

Medeia Sharif said...

I don't wear hats, and I don't have characters with hats, except for a few berets and baseball caps thrown here and there. But I love seeing them in period pieces.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Ah, yes, Medeia. And the right hat for the right period is important. For instance I was surprised when I learned how popular bowlers were in the old west.

Now here's an interesting question- Should a writer simply say the name of the hat or describe it? I gave my character a trilby and several in my critique group complained that they didn't know what it looked like.

I, for one, am happy to look up a new word, especially when it comes to hats. But what about the general public? Maybe most people don't share my enthusiasm???

Medeia Sharif said...

I'd rather just look up the word, but a brief description is okay for me.

zz said...

Hmmm, this has got me thinking - I've never thought of character's in hats (apart 1940's detectives). I don't major on their clothes in general actually...

Amanda Borenstadt said...

I struggle with describing clothes, but once in a while the right hat can give the flavor of a character's outfit and you don't have to give a whole lot of other details.

Nishant said...

Thinking about what kind of hats people in the future would wear to go to another planet in. . .
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G.~ said...

What a novel idea! That just sparked a ton of ideas for me. Thank you for sharing your creativity with us.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

@G~ You're very welcome! Thanks for stopping by. :)

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