This week, I talk about world-building the ideals of beauty and creating characters who buck those trends. Plus, poor Lily can't get a break on her overwhelming projects when Mindil comes with a surprise interruption of teasing and sweets.
One of the hardest part of world building is coming up with the ideals of a culture that don't match my own. I noticed that a lot of folks have an internalized idea of beauty, the comic Empowered has an arc about a demon granting powers to Sistah Spooky but not giving her his typical “Aryan” beauty package (blond hair, large breasts, full lips). That little segment is a great example of a cultural's ideal of beauty and how it sinks into everything. We have the same thing, just look at Hollywood's casting of women or, more crassly, Fox News' female anchors. This is a distinctive type that dominates those images.
The problem is, that isn't my ideal of beauty. However, I'm creating a world where I need to have an ideal, even if it is my own. I actually went with something of a Victorian one for Tarsan, where they lean toward slender (but not skinny) blondes. Likewise, the desert culture has a different ideal (independent women with physical abilities and red hair) or Kormar (boobs and ass, pale skin).
Many of the “beautiful” women (from Lily's point of view) are based on this cultural ideal. There is also hinted with how the débutantes are presented and dressed for their events.
The hardest part of a cultural ideal is when one doesn't fit it. Mindil is short, curvy, and has a large bust. She could fight it: color her hair, wear corsets, and generally shape herself to fit that ideal. She doesn't though. Instead, she does work on her appearance but she knows she can't fit it, so she is willing to create her own style. This is why her outfits are usually different than the folks around her and she is willing to let Lily color her hair to match her dress instead of going with the more “obvious” answer of “make it more blonde.”
Her attitude toward eating in public is part of that. She isn't a glutton, but she is perfectly willing to enjoy a sweet in full view of others. Of course, this gets disapproving stare because Tarsan views a woman enjoying eating as being a bit too “forward” as it were (oral sex is one of those taboo topics and anything attracts to that is “naughty”).
With her being overweight, though, there is a danger of fetisizing her weight. I'm trying to avoid that. Personality-wise, she does enough to draw attention to herself (remember, she has the ability to pull herself out of any conversation) but not overdo it. She's a tease and happy with that, though she has a bit of a soft spot for Lily. I figured it's a balance since she likes to attract attention but doesn't have a desire to “chow down.”
I love the movie Storks. There is one aspect of the movie that I've wanted to implement in my world world and that is a wider variety of hair color. I like purples, blues, and greens ever since I first cut my teeth on early anime (Magical Knights Rayearth, Saber Marionette J comes to mind). I started it with Chimípu red hair, but I didn't really follow through.
I have a reasonable way of getting it to fit in Kosobyo City and the other areas—much like Tarsan's ideal of beauty of blonde hair, the desert has black hair as an idea. It does mean I want to get more colors into descriptions, though not in High Society (blonde is best) but in the other classes in the city.
It also means that Mindil's asking to have her hair colored is actually a commentary that she is willing to look like a “lower class” woman because she thinks it's beautiful.
(Beyond anime colors, I also love flame, two-tone, and geod hair styles.)
It is also a hint of one of the plots in this book.
Second-Hand Dresses 15: Sweets
Just as Lily starts to get a handle on the others duties she needs to complete, she is interrupted by an unexpected visitor bringing sweets, Mindil. The wife of the man Lily lusts after ends up being as sweet as the honey cream pastries she brings.
Read the chapter at https://fedran.com/second-hand-dresses/chapter-15/.
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