So, perusing the NYT before work this morning, I came on a picture (number 5 in the slideshow):
The red hats caught my eye and held on. That, I thought to myself, is a statement.
Something clicked in my mind. I describe a character in the current project as wearing a porkpie hat.
Said character is now wearing a red porkpie hat, because said character is not afraid of standing out, of making a visual statement.
A silly detail? Perhaps. But imagine the picture above with the two men wearing black or brown hats.
Yeah, that’s what I mean. I don’t go into long, detailed descriptions of my characters–ever–but for supporting characters in particular I like to focus on particular physical features, or in this case, sartorial choices, that have meaning and impact. I have a couple of reasons for doing so, but the main one is providing a clear, visual cue for the reader, one that’s not only an aid to remembering the character, but also a frozen moment of insight into the character’s personality, habits, et al.
That’s a lot of weight for “red” to carry. I try to avoid pushing this to extreme cases, which may be why my work doesn’t sprawl with supporting casts. Too many of these and you end up with the Seven Dwarves.