Friday, June 24, 2011
The camera is mightier than the sword
We're taught not to judge the people we meet by their appearances. That homeless looking guy could very well be a multi-millionaire. And that woman who is wearing a designer outfit and in the beautiful Audi could be about to declare bankruptcy. But when it comes to fiction, it can be helpful to make the outside reflect the inside -- if only to make it easier for your readers (and you) to figure out what makes your main character tick.
Lydia McKenzie, the heroine and amateur sleuth in my books, doesn't have a car, instead she rides a vintage Schwinn bike around Brooklyn. She avoids the subway as much as she can (she hates to be squished against strangers). She lives in a rent controlled apartment with furniture that's seen better days. A careful use of throw pillows and afghans hides most of their flaws.
It's really through her clothes that Lydia really expresses her unique personality. She loves to shop vintage stores, and dress to suit the occasion. She has all kinds of outfits she puts together when she needs a pick me up, to feel professional or sexy. I have a lot of fun writing about her clothes, and usually dress her up in outfits I would never wear in a million years...
When it comes to gadgets, her needs are simple. A good cell phone and an old laptop are quite sufficient for her. She doesn't really go in for gaming or gigantic TVs. She doesn't know how to use a gun or any kind of weapon really. Her primary crime fighting tool is her camera. She spares no expense there. She has both a film camera and a digital SLR, both lovingly maintained. When she dreams of blowing her savings on something new, it's usually a new lens or some other photo related gadget. She spends a good sum every month for a space in a darkroom, and she keeps it well stocked with photo paper. Is it any wonder that she's stuck in a cheap apartment and can't afford many luxuries?
Lydia's photos are usually what get her into trouble. Her photo projects lead her again and again into danger with her murder recreation photographs, portraits of prostitutes, and job catching illegal tenants. But it's her camera that gets her out of trouble, too. She captures the clues on film, examining the crime scenes through the lens. After when she prints the photographs, she is slowly able to put the pieces together and figure out who committed the murders. With a gadget like that, who needs really needs a Porsche?