Thoughts on Writing – Considering Attire in World Building

Last weekend Isaac and I went to Planet Comicon as volunteers, and we had a lot of fun! During our off time, we got to see some cool panels, spent money in the vendor room (Always have a budget… it helps), and saw a neat cosplay.

However, the side-effect of going to Planet Comicon and NakaKon is the resulting desire to write and draw comics. (Originally we had planned on writing The Multiverse Chronicles in comic book form, but that didn’t happen. We kept the idea of doing illustrations, though).

Long story short, Isaac and I were trying to get Photoshop CS6 installed on his new laptop (and the program wasn’t quite cooperating), so I had some downtime while chatting with the Adobe representatives. Since my mind was side-tracked with the idea of how to convert one of our later planned series, Exiles, into a comic book format, I decided to try sketching one of the main characters.

This was the result:

Exiles Character Concept Art

When I looked at her armor, I realized it really didn’t quite… work (I’ve never been particularly good at drawing armor). It didn’t fit what I had pictured. So I started looking up modern day outfits. The real-life Special Forces uniforms didn’t match the in-universe uniforms, so I looked a bit more to SWAT teams for inspiration. Had Isaac help with the visors… (my first attempt at their helmets looked like something from Hunger Games), and then we looked over both uniforms.

This was the result of the uniform sketches:

Exiles Special Forces Uniform Concept Art

Ultimately, our conversation concluded with us discussing that their outfits should match the reason they need that outfit.

For example, the reason our in-universe Special Forces look like a SWAT team is because when they came about, they were dealing with people who had super powers. People who could throw fireballs or used super strength. People who might use swords just because they had a super skill that made them extraordinary with a blade.

These guys needed to be equipped to deal with powers.

For that reason, Isaac and I considered that the original outfit I drew might not be that far-fetched, at least for certain teams. Having a form of armor around their arms and shoulders would be seriously helpful if they got into melee combat… and might protect against burns. They probably wouldn’t want to have a bunch of pouches on the outside of their uniform (do you really want your equipment easily accessible to someone who is telekinetic)? In fact, their outfits might be modular. If they expected to go up against a certain kind of adversary in a certain situation, they could adjust accordingly.

Look at historical “knights in shining armor” and consider that chainmail was more effective at blocking certain types of weapons and strikes than others. Plate armor also came with certain advantages and disadvantages. If you didn’t take this sort of thing into account (or couldn’t), you were at a major disadvantage. There’s an interesting discussion about the effectiveness of chainmail here.

However, those considerations meant that our newer sketches still worked. In areas where super powers are unheard of (the Community), our Special Forces would be more likely to wear the bulkier outfits with all the pockets and gear that would be effective against ordinary assailants. But if they were going up against a group of rebels, they might be more cautious of what they wore.

When you are developing your world, keep the clothing of your characters in mind. What would they wear for practicality? What, if removed from the equation, might create a problem for them?

For example, in our Exiles story, none of the outfits our main characters have fit them properly. They snatch the clothes from a shipment of cargo, wear what they can, and have to make do with what else they can find, at least for a little while. It’s a problem they have to solve.

You can use the attire of a character to enrich the world, and the culture of that world. Why are they wearing what they’re wearing? Is it because they can afford to? Can’t afford not to? What is available to them?

Have you considered the attire your characters well as part of your world building? Can you think of any examples of outfits that fit really well (or not at all) in their story’s world?

Also, if you want to watch an interesting review of real-life body armor versus armor from science fiction (Halo), The Game Theorists did an in-depth video on Youtube. Found that interesting a while back, and Isaac remembered it today when we were reviewing our concept art.

I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂

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