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18 May 2014 @ 09:59 pm
Some things to think about when writing thin characters.  
Recently I wrote a post about some things that I wish authors would keep in mind when writing about fat characters. This post is a companion to that one. Not a parallel -- a companion. Here are some things that I wish authors would think about when they're writing a character who is thin.

What are you hoping it says about a character, for them to be thin? What does their thinness symbolize about their actions, their ethics, their level of power?

What does this character's thinness imply about anyone in the book who is not thin?

What does the character's thinness imply about an alternate version of themself (past, present hypothetical, future projection) who is not thin?

Is the character explictly thin -- does the text say thin, slim, slender, or any other form of that -- or is the character thin by default?

Does the text assume that the character's thinness is a choice?

Are you using thinness as a form of wish fulfillment for readers? A form of making the character more attractive to readers? A way to encourage readers to root for this character?

Are you using thinness to show vulnerability?

Privilege likes to keep itself invisible. Thinness is no more blank or neutral than whiteness or ablebodiedness. Thinness is no more natural or average than whiteness or ablebodiedness.

It's no less important to think about literary constructions of thinness than literary constructions of fatness.
 
 
 
Maria TigermolnMaria Tigermoln on May 30th, 2014 04:49 pm (UTC)
heh, I was impressed by my stupidity, I had to read the comments about the text about fat bodies before I got that this was about the CHARACTERS in the stories, not about the LETTERS... whoa, I am just dork.

so, what about extremely ugly, scarred characters? or the supermuscled body? are we in general using these symbols in our storytelling, so we cannot evade or escape them? Is that so, that the brain connects and recognizes and gets pleasure of the symbolism, even as this obviously used?

how would the story about the woman in no submission to the grown man's physical strength? how would the world without hierarchy be like? Is it even possible for us to make an imaginary world? what would be the laws of that world? I mean, is there gravity? do the living species breathe oxygen? How would a world were some species devour other be built if not by the law of physical strength?

and a little one more... how come that we think that the weaker sex, the female, should not participate in battle, should not learn to fight or defend herself?

would that go hand in hand with the restrictions that the female brain is too frail to be able to learn and achieve knowledge as reading, astronomy, mathematics, historic, medicine... ?

and, yes, english is not my first language, so I am not really sure I managed thruough the grammatical crevisses without blunt errors.
Rebecca Rabinowitz: Dicey's Songdiceytillerman on June 1st, 2014 02:02 am (UTC)
Thank you for your comment. Yes, I do believe that symbolism is a wonderful and juicy part of literature; I'm not trying to banish symbolism. But no, I don't believe that it's okay to use a trait of one character as a symbol when that trait is shared by an entire demographic of people, or even a small group of people. Because when that happens, it's not just symbolism, it's representation of a group; you're saying something not only about that individual character but about other people. And oppression in literature connects materially to oppression in real life.

It may be a bit different when the trait and the demographic group is not part of any system of oppression, but that's not generally how this works. And when it does happen -- say, in science fiction, when there's a trait that doesn't exist in the real world -- the overall structure is still often symbolic of real systems of oppression.

what about extremely ugly, scarred characters? or the supermuscled body? are we in general using these symbols in our storytelling, so we cannot evade or escape them? Is that so, that the brain connects and recognizes and gets pleasure of the symbolism, even as this obviously used?

Scarred and ugly characters are regularly used in literature to represent evil. It's not okay at all; it's heinously irresponsible and damaging to real people. I see no reason we can't escape this practice. We need to try.

Symbolism doesn't need to slam a group of people. Symbolism can be used in other ways.
Maria Tigermoln: pic#123434399Maria Tigermoln on June 3rd, 2014 12:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you ! It's nice to reflect upon how litterature is used and also misused. I would like to read more stories from authors who have thought about these issues. The progress lies within the way you think and imagine also comes out in the speach, behaving and in the writing. :)