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Every cool new character in my story wears a cloak

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Thea__, Dec 26, 2020.

  1. Thea__

    Thea__ Acolyte

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    This. I don't know anymore....
    I had a fantasy story in mind for quite some time and am now at the stage of thinking about my characters individual looks and such things (I might be over thinking everything but I really like being organized in my character descriptions and designs. I can't help it).

    The story I am planning out has a medieval fantasy setting (the pretty standard version I guess).
    The problem lies with every character design I have in my head and in their first introduction:

    The protagonist wears a long black cloak.

    The powerful mage wears a white robe with a cloak on top to hide his identity.

    The bounty hunter with a huge long bow slung over her shoulder wears a hooded cloak covering half her face.

    The officer warrior wears over his silver armor a thick mantle (essentially a cloak).

    The bad guys were black cloaks.

    The mysterious elder wears a long white cloak.

    The strange child which is rescued in the middle of winter is given a large brown cloak.
    ...
    They all wear cloaks!!!!
    .
    .
    .
    *Sigh* I love planing out my characters. I love desinging and making their entries as awesome and mysterious and flashy as I can.
    BUT.
    I dont know if anyone else has ever struggled with this.
    But they all wear this same thing in character description (just their cloaks not anything else). I am crying and laughing at the same time.

    I've looked up some synonym words: Cape, mantle, robe, hood, mantle, veil(Does that even fit?), etc. ....

    But I've found that no matter what I use I am pretty much writing myself into a circle of doom.

    Especially since I can't help adding details like (they're just examples):
    "...as she stood up from the table she pulled the hood of her cloak once more over her head. Covering her entire face exept her pointed chin and her still smirking lips...";
    "...as he left with long strides, his cloak swaying around him in the windy weather,..."

    It really makes me want to yeet my keyboard out of my window TT^TT.

    Anyhow. Do you guys think that I should leave out details about clothing (even though I personally think it adds something)? Should I go do more research and look up clothing of in history and in other fantasy stories to get inspiration and redesign most of my characters?
    Should I try using these synonyms even though they make my head spin? (I hate calling something cloak in one moment and then calling it mantle or cape in the next. It just isn't ment to be.)
    Do you guys even get bothered by constant repetition of these kinds of words?

    The characters I have in mind stand all pretty good on their own, but only when they are alone. If I write them together in a scene my writing gets pretty - ...well. Annoying.
    I am wondering how other historical fantasy writers manage this.
    Is clothing just never mentioned? Is it just never an issue?

    ...maybe I've been just reading too much other stuff lately.

    I would be happy to hear about your thoughts.
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  2. Lynea

    Lynea Sage

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    I would say that clothing needs to be mentioned if it gives a better understanding of the character. There is a writing example you should look look up, it's called the Indivisible and the Void. In the book the author mentions a "black flaxen cloak" alot, because it's what the protagonist wears. Why? How does mentioning this cloak help the reader? My speculation is that it tells us what sort of 'class' the character is, what we can expect from him and so on. In my opinion, it does get a bit redundant to mention the same clothing repeatedly, but I think the author has intention behind it.

    As for your characters, mentioning their wardrobe and equipment helps bring them to life on the page. It gives us an idea of what we can expect. On the other hand, maybe not everyone needs a cape or something that drapes over them. I understand that it's just your worldbuilding style, which is fine, but maybe not a necessity.

    Sometimes I have my characters try on a various array of wardrobes before settling onto one that works throughout the story. Clothes should be first and foremost set to the conditions. When traveling, it is common to wear a cape or a hood. In a palace, not so much. In a battle? Something sturdier is necessary.
     
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  3. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    You can dig into it more if you want. Give cloak wearing cultural significance. Maybe it's expected that every right and proper gentleman is expected to wear something that can serve as a cloak in a pinch?
     
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  4. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Sage

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    It's a common piece of clothing. If you wrote a story about Antarctic explorers, would you go "ah geez they're all wearing WINTER JACKETS oh no." Probably not, because of course you'd wear a winter jacket (and gloves and boots and probably also goggles) when you're traipsing about in the Antarctic. Them NOT wearing coats would be weird. Unless one of your characters was a penguin, then they'd probably not need a coat, but maybe someone made the penguin a coat, and that would say something about that character.

    So your characters wear cloaks, why that instead of some other sort of outerwear? Why that specific cloak? Colors and materials can say something about the geographical place they're from, their wealth, maybe they're part of the army and its a standard-issue cloak. Or maybe they just wear them for the same reason you wear socks and shoes: because it gets the job done, then it's just window dressing and you don't need to over think it.
     
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  5. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Auror

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    That is mostly out and traveling wear and I guess. Really want to toss in something that stands out from the standard setting? Hats. Hats were as common in the Ye Olden Days as now, but they also denoted things too. Wanna give your bounty hunter a look that can still hide her face and sometimes blend in? Wide brim hat, like Cad Banes. And a few others. Or there's always face concealing helm route, which is also common and wouldn't be out of place on the fighters.

    The bad guys...well, at least the protag has a way to blend in. The mage, one would hope, might have some way to disguise himself outside of simply putting on a cloak. Magic his clothes depending on situation? Make himself above or below his station, get a shave and a nice tonsure, go monk. Don't wear white after Labor Day and such. The kid got a peasant hand me down, and hopefully some other warmer clothes. Also would hope the officer knows enough to blacken his armor and such if he's trying to hide. Much like the wizards white robes, a cloak will only cover so much and shiny doesn't help much when trying to blend in. And if you want to really step out, give them coats, and overcoats work too and aren't outside of a medieval setting.

    But yeah, coats, hats, helmets, vests, pants and footwear can all be combined to give them their own look without perhaps sticking out too much. But keep the black cloaks for when they need to sneak into the bad guys place and can simply walk through security that way.
     
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  6. Gray-Hand

    Gray-Hand Minstrel

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    If cloaks are a fashion item in your setting, then it would be expected that characters would wear them in preference to other clothing that has a similar function such as coats or jackets.

    If they aren’t just a fashion item, then there should be a reason that a character wears a cloak instead of something else like a coat which is usually a more effective item of clothing. Maybe a cloak doesn’t fit over plate armour or wizard robes?

    Generally speaking, cloaks are annoying for travelling through dense forest because they snag on things way worse than a garment that is fitted around the limbs of the body. They also aren’t great for sneaking around in because apart from snagging, they are easy to trip over once you bend down and cause it to drape all over the ground.

    What they are good for is keeping arms free which is handy for archery. They can be used in combat to distract and to protect the hand against blades.

    They are also a good general purpose item that can quickly be thrown over whatever a character is wearing if they feel the need to add an extra layer for warmth, keep the rain off or to conceal the rest of what they are wearing. They aren’t good for keeping the wind out because the wind can get hold of them easily and blow them away from the body, which requires the wearer to clasp them shut with a hand, which is a pain - and the reason the world moved on from them in real life.

    Cloaks are cheaper than other clothing made out of the same material because they require less tailoring, so they might be expected to be found more often among less wealthy sectors of society. Richer people probably pay extra for coats for practicality and capes for fashion.
     
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  7. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

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    Clothing has two different purposes: it can be about appearances,as at a formal ball, or it can be about function, like keeping you dry. Sometimes your clothing can combine both, but in the sort of setting you're talking about thats a little unusual.

    Cloaks are about keeping you warm and dry, both when you walk and when you ride. So describing the cloaks tells the reader a bit about the sort of weather your characters are experiencing, and it tells you a bit about how much money they have access to. Something like a nearly ankle length oiled sheepskin cloak (warm and almost completely waterproof) which comes down below the top of their boots will cost a lot more than a simple woollen cloak, and its owner will take care of it.

    There's also practical issues. If you want to carry a knife hidden in your clothes, what sort of clothes do you wear? Maybe a doublet, but a tunic is lighter and more practical for hiding things. You probably don't wear a hose, but maybe trousers. What about carrying a purse of money? Things like this make a difference, and you'll need to describe the clothing in some way so that the setting and the characters come alive and so that readers can suspend belief and get into the story.
     
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  8. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    In the manuscript I just finished, the people live in warm, green area. They wear short, lightweight robes, sort of like a men's formal kimono, in layers.

    The colors of the robes, and the details on the hem, edgestitch, lapels, and cuffs, denote status, trade (it's an artisan culture), family, etc. In this way, I'm able to use the word "robe" or "gown" for pretty much everything everyone is wearing, but I can use the colors and the details to go into depth about them separately. It saved a lot of writing time not having to cough up a new outfit for everyone. Just a thought.
     
  9. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

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    Ask yourself if you'll add anything towards the genre or if your interested in creating a reality for yourself. Be true
     
  10. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

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    You're lack of imagination is your ruin. What next will you pass? If anything
     
  11. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Just to add a to this. You don't have to describe everything. But what you choose to describe should reveal something beyond the surface level. So if something isn't all that important, don't dwell on it. If it's just an unimportant cloak then just call it a cloak and be done with it. It's a lot more distracting when as a reader you see an author going full thesaurus on something than if they just stuck to a simple and consistent descriptor.

    As Chasejxyz was saying, just think about the things we wear in our world. If you say a character is wearing a $1000 pair of sneakers that says something about a character. If you say they're wearing worn sneakers with holes in them, that says something else. If you say a character wears their pants so high the waist covers their bellybutton, it says something. If you say they wear it low below their butt crack, it says something else.

    You can take these things and apply them to the cloaks your character's wear. They can reveal things about your character in how they wear them and how they manipulate them. Do they wear them loose? Do they wear them tight? Do they pull back the hood with one hand or use both? Do they let the robe drag along the ground or do they always make sure it always hovers?

    If you gave your characters each the exact same cloak then fast forwarded about a month or so in time, what would each character's cloak look like? Who's got the stain covered one? Who has the pristine one? etc.
     
  12. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Seriously, it makes you wonder how cloaks are not THE fashion statement for our time! They’re so cool. And capes. And they get relegated to Halloween! Sickening.

    That said, Eve of Snows opened with monks and priests in robes and the clans wore bear-skin cloaks to stave off the cold. So, in a sense, I feel for you. The only real issue in a fashion diverse situation is if the characters are described too close together, or the descriptions of the characters too basic.
     
    Nighty_Knight likes this.
  13. Electric Bone Flute

    Electric Bone Flute Minstrel

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    There's a Benedictine monastery nearby. Literally everyone there wears a cloak for some reason, every day :).
     
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  14. ShadeZ

    ShadeZ Maester

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    Yup I have a simalar problem.

    My mc when introduced to the character telling the story is wearing a white cape (his artifact).

    There is an assassin known as Raudúr or the King of Hearts who is known by the fact he wears a red cape.

    The dragon slayer king wears a golden cape.
     
  15. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Don't do this.
    Reason 1: avoid using words and phrases you're not intimately familiar with, especially if the main reason for doing so is to spice up the prose. It's likely going to have the opposite effect.
    Reason 2: for a visual reader, the imagery will still be largely the same regardless of which synonym you use. Using two different words for the same thing doesn't necessarily make it less confusing.

    As for my own take on this.
    If everyone wears a cloak, the cloak changes from being a garment to being part of the character - a bit like someone's long blond hair, or someone else's short brown hair. Everyone will have it, but for some it will be a more important feature than for others.
    I'm also thinking that the cloaks could be a good way to add an extra dimension to the characters. The colors they prefer, the cut and size, and the quality of the material. Is it decorated or fortified? Does it have pockets?

    If you just go cloak, cloak, cloak, it might get a bit repetitive, but if you space it out a bit and give each cloak its own personality (the mage's cloak is imbued with a spirit that's afraid of water), I think you'll be just fine.
     
  16. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

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    Well, my characters don't all wear cloaks, but all of my male characters and one of my female characters all have beards. So we both have a thing we put on our characters.
     
  17. Larpushka

    Larpushka New Member

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    I feel like all those characters are overcompensating if they need a cloak to be cool.
    But yea... cloaks are cool, can't deny it. Geralt (witcher) is pretty cool even without a cloak, so it can be done!
     
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