Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Hauling Ass

This morning I did my usual tentative shuffle along our hall and down the back stairs to the kitchen to plug in the electric kettle.
After one or two instances of plunging headfirst over large, sprawled, furry bodies in the dark, my style of early morning perambulation cautiously resembles some shaky old soul with a walker.
I wondered if fluorescence could be added to coffee, so I could follow that persistent trail sign from office to kitchen in relative safety.
If it weren't for our mobile throw rugs, I'd richochet off the walls each morning with cheerful abandon.
My normal method of locomotion is not bent, tentative or uncertain. Years of navigating in heels gives one balance - when awake, that is.
Also, Miss Bustlewhistle emphasised deportment as well as grammar.
Which got me thinking, of course, of another possible omission in modern prose.
Can't remember characters' walks being described much. Yet posture and stride is important body language. People react to it on first acquaintance.
Wondered if this apparent dismissal is due to creeping urbanism. Cars. Crowds. Replaced by descriptions of how people sit.
Since the ankle bone is connected to the leg bone and the leg bone connected...
Depositing my wee behind on my office chair, in turn, I wondered about hips, behinds, bums, buttocks, bottoms, fat asses.
(Pardon that last intrusion - an odd character of my acquaintance refers to his daughter-in-law as "Fatass." A vulgar, though entirely accurate, description.)
My impression is that description of such necessary anatomy is also often missing.
The heroes are "slim-hipped" or "muscular." The heroines are "rounded" or rotating. And only nasty characters elicit much detail and that derisive.
Perhaps this is correct.
After all, many character are usually more interested in other vital body structures.
Nevertheless, with all this ass-grabbing going on, I wonder.
Perhaps I'm off, but it seems to me that these lusty characters would spend a few moments on comparative anatomy. The men, at least. Though from pictures on some websites, I have the idea that women are also sometimes given to sly examination.
Your thoughts?


Erik Ivan James said...

It amazes me how you are able to do it, Bernita. Able to come up with a meaningful after day, after day....and write about them so well. Just amazing!

Jaye Wells said...

Bernita, I prefer for the writer to leave some details vague. It's nice to fill in some details myself. If the dialogue and action are good enough, I don't give a damn about descriptions of posture or hip-to-waist ratios.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Something to think about! To the best of my recollection, any female character commentary I've read regarding male anatomy runs along the short, direct path; i.e., "nice ass." :-) I don't think writers let their heroes ponder on such things outside of bedroom scenes--perhaps from fear of offending by making the men seem like chauvinist pigs?

Bernita said...

Thank you, Erik.
Don't know how "meaningful" some of the topics are - just ideas and observations, questions and considerations.

Quite, Jaye, just wondering about the choice of those details here.
The little items that might make a character unique to the reader.

My impression was that they didn't ponder them much in the bedroom scenes, either, Sonya!
Talked to my husband about walking/sitting style and posture. He said it was one of the first things he noticed about a person, because as basic body language it showed so much about the individual.

Robyn said...

I remember Stephen King writing something about the favored method of campus locomotion, the Undergraduate Slouch. Most romances favor the hero moving with predatory, panther-like grace. And come on, Bernita, you know it...most heroines, even if willowy and ballerina graceful, will trip. Running from a villain or into the hero's arms, she'll trip. Guaranteed.

And I must second Erik's thoughts. I want to be you when I grow up!

Bernita said...

You are so right, Robyn.
Though I always wonder if his tail twitches at the same time...
Another way I am
so deviant. Don't believe I have Damie trip once. In fact, I believe she gives him the hairy eye-ball. Must fix that.
Have to break it to you, I was hoping to be like you when I grow up.

Ric said...

Jaye has it right - let the reader do it - I mean, damn, do we have to do ALL the work?

Lots of writers do it - generally in a way that gives you insight into character. "She came into the room and the first thought that crossed his mind were those beautiful long legs - the second was how they might feel wrapped around his waist."

"She thought his clothes were a bit tight to be fashionable. Do men still carry big jackknifes in their front pockets?"

Body language is important - as your hubby pointed out. "She walked with confidence, head high, chest out, drawing stares from old men on benches."

"When he strode into the crowded room, he demanded attention, not by saying a word, but his manner, purposefullness, caused every eye to turn and conversation to cease."

Savannah Jordan said...

You know from my writing, Bernita, that I focus on certain details, some unusal in perspective. Yes, I like to describe a 'heart-shaped ass,'*grin* but I do not spend copious amounts of time describing appearance, etc. A few well chosen words, and attributes, can convey volumes.

EA Monroe said...

I use all that body language stuff as part of characterization, revealed in the character's actions, personality, or from another character's pov observation. The careless rogue slouches at the family's formal dining table as if he's enjoying a night out at the local tavern ogling the barmaids. Sometimes, it sets the scene or the mood. Subtle body language counts, even when a character's lying through his/her teeth! If a character slinks like a panther, he/she better be a shapeshifter!

Bernita said...

Of course they do, Savannah!.
Nor did I intend to imply that one should catalogue physical attributes like an invoice.
That approach always reminds me of a basic beginner's exercise in a creative writing class.
Your "heart-shaped ass" is exactly what I mean as one detail guys do identify.
Good one!

MissWrite said...

I certainly agree with Erik's applaud. You constantly amaze. Not only do you come up with original subject matter on a consistant basis, but thoroughly convey your opinion on it with humor, and style! *bows to you*

As for attributes, I think it's safe to say there are writers out there that do a good job of not focusing soley on boobs and butts. (heehee) However, I'm kind of glad no one has taken to the desire to relate a pair of feet.

Oh, BTW, your morning trek sounds a lot like mine.

That's the real key there... describing the motions... not the phyisical parts that make the trek possible. Your relating might have suffered some if you'd gone into the numerous corns on your toes, or your funky metatarsal bones. :)

Describing the journey with style... rather than saying I walked to the kitchen... makes it a FUN read, and puts an image into the mind while giving much to the picture of your mental state in the morning--not to mention the posible physical dangers to your cats/dogs etc.

Love it.

Bernita said...

I think we have to give them the right cues, Ric.

I think physical details should do triple duty: give the reader an image, a a character trait and a plot clue.

Good stuff, EA!

Thank you, Tami.
But if they are going to focus on boobs and butts, Tami...
It's just a straighforward account of how I navigate in the dark each morning with the usual hazards on roadway. Can't do corns and bunions 'cause I don't have any - but if I did, the dog's claws would find them,while scrambling out of the way...
Figured you would relate to early mornings and large animals somehow...

MissWrite said...

Early morning and large animals: LOL, somehow you make that sound so dirty, Bernita! hahaha

And feet... they just ain't purty. I'll grant it depends on who's doing the looking as to whether boobs and butts are either, or maybe, rather, who they're attached too, but it's probably a surer bet they're nicer than most toes.

Gabriele C. said...

My characters stalk and saunter and do other things besides walking.

For the importance of body language, the Icelandic sagas are one of the best lessons.

Bernita said...

Dear me, didn't intend to, Tami.
You always struck me as blessedly normal - in an original kind of way.

Mmm, Gabriele, I have copies of Njal's Saga and Grettirsaga on hand. Perhaps I should check them out just for that.

MissWrite said...

Muuuuuahahahahahahaha--another one sucked in by the illusion.

Just kidding, I'm pretty ... uh, normal ... yeah, that's it! Normal.

Flood said...

I'm reading a book now in which our hero has a bum leg and needs a cane. We don't know that until Chapter 3 when violent action takes place.

So I spent 40 minutes carefully re-reading the previous chapters to be sure I didn't miss anything. I didn't, but the author did.

Bernita said...

Of course you are,Tami.
I mean making up stuff isn't really strange or anything...

You do that too, Flood?
I'm a back-checker as well.
Really annoys me when there is no hint at all.

MissWrite said...

Seems to me, that not only did the author goof, so did the editor. That's part of the job. I just made an author change a place where a character let the reader know he was happy to be in a cave in order to avoid the constant rains in the country he was in... in chapter 12. Never ONCE did this character experience even a drop of rain throughout the entire story taking place in this country. Kind of weird for a place where it rains constantly.

Savannah Jordan said...

I knew you meant no implications, Bernita. Just me, in my pithy-- slightly misdirected -- way of agreeing with you. I like to sketch out the finer points and leave the rest to the reader. It's always interesting to hear comparative talk about a given piece, to hear what others see based on the description therein.

Sela Carsen said...

*sigh* Bit of a Mary Sue here. Since my own rear parts have rarely been the type to invite positive scrutiny, I tend not to think about them. And my heroines to date would blush to think "nice ass" outside a situation where that sort of thinking comes in handy.