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Hair, it's our Crowning Glory Tags: creative writing hair fictional characters human hair trade Emma Tarlo hair in fiction

At least thatís what women are led to believe from an early age and the beauty industry is more than happy to divest us of our money in pursuit of that ideal. Iíve been thinking about fictional charactersí hair a lot recently. In films and novels Caucasian women often have character-defining hair. Black; witchy and duplicitous, red; fiery and vivacious; blonde; angelic or tarty, brown; plain and intelligent, grey/white; wise and intellectual, curly; unpredictable and bubbly, straight; cool and calculating. This left me with a dilemma because I was struggling to choose the hair colour and type of my young, female protagonist, but I didnít want to push her into any of those stereotypes.

In a Tangle

So I began to tackle the problem in a circuitous way and by happy accident discovered the fascinating, non-fiction book, Entanglement: The Secret Lives of Hair by Emma Tarlo. Now, like you, I knew that both men and women can need wigs for a variety of medical, cosmetic or religious reasons but I had no idea of the global, largely covert, billion-dollar trade in the procurement and processing of human hair into wigs and extensions. Sourcing hair generally starts in third world countries. Some women sell their hair to barbers for a short-lived respite from poverty in China, India, Myanmar and Pakistan. On the other side of the world, relatively wealthy women choose to boost their income by selling their hair directly to the client via the Buy and Sell Hair website. The reasons for sale are as various as the hair types on offer. Hindus have their hair tonsured in Indian temples as a way of showing thanks, or to seek rebirth; indeed the vast temple of Tirumala acts as a magnet for pilgrims drawing people and hair from all over India. Each year the tonsured hair adds around 20 million pounds to the templeís coffers.

Giveaway Hair

Sometimes, hair donation is purely altruistic as in the recent case of the Duchess of Cambridge donating seven inches of her locks to the Little Princesses Trust for children and young adults who have lost their hair through cancer treatment. How bizarre to think that a sick child somewhere will be wearing our future Queen consortís hair. Truly a crowning glory! The hair is sorted anonymously so no one will ever know that their wig contains Kateís tresses.

Decisions, Decisions

While all these hair stories make fascinating reading, it isnít taking me nearer a solution in my writing dilemma! What it does show me though is how important this decision is and how much identity and status are invested in luscious locks or lack thereof. Would Dennis the Menace be as naughty without his black, unruly mop? Could Heathcliff have been blonde? Could Pippi Longstocking have had mousey-coloured hair? Would Bond villain, Blofeld, have been as menacing if he werenít bald? How do you decide your charactersí hair colour and type? Can you think of fictional characters defined by their hair? Iíd love to hear your thoughts.

The Ideas' Shop
Category: Writing
Tags: writing not writing

(The might be part of the problem - its called sun and is a fairly rare occurence where I currently live...)

† † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † †The Ideaís Shop
Iím having a lean week, by which I mean, not that Iím on a diet but I havenít written much. This is partly because weíve been busy with other things but sometimes being busy gives me ideas to jot down. This week no ideas have come.†
† † †Iíve tried the usual tricks ó listening to conversations in cafes, looking at news headlines, reading, checking the Writers Abroad muses ó but so far, nothing.†
† † †I do keep an ideas book where I jot down possible story titles and themes but even this hasnít yielded anything this week.†
† † †I could just write. Free write. But I like to have a story idea roughed out on my head and know the ending before I begin otherwise I know to my cost, I end up with many, many half written pieces that just end up getting binned.†
† † †The situation isnít worrying me yet, but it is niggling. I have time to write but nothing to work on. I know ideas will come back. This has happened before, usually when my routines are disturbed. I need to get back into the groove.
† † † And I have plenty of reference books and ideas sheets to turn to (a personal favourite is Linda Lewisís Writerís Treasury of Ideas), but I should like to get through this myself. Meanwhile Iím trawling through old stories that havenít got anywhere but are still lurking at the back of my computer. Hopefully I can rework one or two of them and that will jump start my writing again.†
† † † Or maybe I can pop out to the ideas shopÖ
† † ††
† † † Any tricks you use to help with a lean patch?
† † † Any favourite books which help?
† † † Do you keep an ideas book to help with motivation?
† † † And do you have the same problems if you are writing a novel? Or have you done enough planning to get through the blank patches?
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