NVDT #50 – Who Does Your Hair, Baby Tarzan? The Yard Man?

But first – if you must use adverbs, use big, unusual ones. Querimoniously. “With complaint”. She stared at the boiled octopus and sighed, querimoniously.

The Prompt – How do you decide to dress your characters?

Circumstantially? Is that an answer? Not that they walk around naked but I might put something on them to set a style or a need. Main characters I will dress for effect but I fall far short of describing them in any detail. For most of a book I have a main character in a tux that fits like pajamas. For peripheral characters, I might not bother at all. Or, I might not bother with names and their clothing is who they are. Easier to see than ramble on about.


Bernie eyed the two antsy, shuffly, rumpled men standing in her doorway at the Best Western. “You’re who, again?”

“FBI.” The one in hooded sweats and ratty Red Converses with frayed laces flashed a badge for a spilt second.

“Yeah. FBI,” the other, shorter one said. He had borderline mutton chop sideburns and was wearing what looked like plaid double knit golf pants from the Seventies, complete with two-tone patent leather shoes.

“Yeah?” Bernie shifted her gaze back and forth between them, her finger twitched on the Ruger behind her back. “Our regulars are where?”

“Hadda go. Home. Back. Home. To the office,” Plaid Pants jammed.

“That’s right.” Red Converse’s backed him up. “The home office. Re, uh, re, uh –”

“Reassigned.” Plaid pants elbowed his partner. “You got the money, babe? We’re ready to move. Out.”


….. The bearded man in nothing but boxers and untied work boots walking toward them with a semi-automatic pistol in his hand didn’t look happy.

“What the hell y’all doin’ down here?” The pistol flew up, popped twice. Plaid Pants grabbed his left upper arm, howled, and threw his gun twenty feet in the air. “You ain’t hurt,” Boxers and Boots raised his voice to command level and directed with the pistol. “Get on over there with the other three. All of you, hands on your heads.”


With a hand on either jamb no beard, Converses, faded jeans, blue and white squares thrift store bowling shirt Jackson leaned in the doorway to Paula’s graphic design office.


In fact, she was getting blown out by an unfamiliar young woman with shoulder-length dark hair, a lifelong Arizona desert tan, makeup barely, and thin, colorful feather earrings that must have been a foot long. Otherwise, she was in business-esque attire except for white high top Converse basketball shoes lightly dusted with glitter and a smattering of synthetic gemstones. Her outfit topped off by a beautiful, unusual color of blue baseball cap with a gold, embroidered M. The seam where the bill and hat came together decorated with tiny pink rosebuds. When Amanda commented on how unusual her outfit was, the girl had called it redneck Victorian casual.


After four takes of doing it for the camera, the Hollywood girl who was on the edge of too perfect from her teeth to her tan to the way her Daisy Dukes seemed to be part of her behind and wasn’t a parts delivery girl but played one on Monterrey Mick’s Mad Mods, dropped a sponsor’s logo covered box full of nothing on a tool cart next to Bobby.


“Wet T-shirt contest?”

“Not so’s you’d know.” Bobby forearmed the sweat out of his eyes, dropped the rope he’d been trying to pull the Swamp Vue Scat up onto the hard-packed mud bar between the north end of Standard Channel and Little Tensas bayou.  He measured the weathered man in worn camo cargos, knee waders and a long-sleeved work shirt. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Bernie reach behind her back and go full vigilant. “We for sure didn’t advertise.”

“Most folks, even the city types, they leave a boat in the water, walk the dog with a leash.” Waders took a deep drag on his cigarette, stole a glance at Bernie through the smoke. His sloping shoulders drooped further when he exhaled. “You don’t appear to be natives.”

“Houma.” Bobby waited for the smoke to clear, tilted his head toward Bernie. “She’s Port Barre.”

“Ma’am.” Waders lifted a black Yamaha cap, smiled with a touch of leer. “All the good lookin’ women Port Barre way keep pistols in their shorts?”


The blonde man with the sharply trimmed, dark auburn sideburns stepped from his spot leaning against the tree and fell into sync with Jackson’s lazy amble toward Broadway. The man’s blue windbreaker rustled lightly with his walk, his shoes made no sound at all. He was a touch shorter than Jackson, five-nine, maybe ten. He put out a dense, close-fitting force field vibe like he was made out of bricks.

“I wasn’t going to like you,” ski jacket said.


Kaitlin Everson, the actress responsible for the lawsuits that roared like background noise on cheap tape through almost five months of his life stood on the other side of his small kitchen divider, nervously tapping her fingers on the tile top. She looked good. Dangerous. The swept up cascade of ringlets over silky dark waves, sprayed-on yellow capris and a snug, lacy sleeves to her elbows top. He stayed with his back against the counter on the opposite wall of his narrow kitchen, arms folded like a shield. As if it would help if she went full Tasmanian devil.


She eyed the idling diesel box van that blocked off the narrow street in front of her flat, looked at the two men in daylight. Where did Jackson find these guys?The taller one with long, grown out beyond shaggy surfer hair, blonde goatee, Laguna Beach Tunnel Hustler t-shirt, jeans with holes in the knees and a palm tree earring. Dorch. Sheezus. The other one shorter, wider, a long, skunk striped ponytail, flowered surf jams, untied workboots and spray-on white undershirt over a serious didn’t-get-it-in-England tan was a for-real weight lifter. Torch. Good God, she was up for a second M-Phil being dressed, timed and led around by guys named Dorch and Torch?


The lanky, former All American mid-thirties black guy, overdressed in a trendy, peg-legged weird shade of blue straight-out-of-the-Sixties suit brushed his hands together like he’d somehow gotten dirty on his cat-like climb of the 2×12 plank stairs. He beamed a thousand-watt smile in my direction. “You look surprised to see me, Casper.”


I know I’ve probably said this a thousand times, but dialog will often tell you what someone looks like. To you, as a reader. One more and I’ll stop. Here is a guy meeting a Hollywood Press Agent for the first time. I don’t need to use the words boistrous, loud, any of that. What she says is who she is.

“Jackson, shake hands with Shannon Latouche. She’s our talent press agent for Twice Is As Good As Forever.”

“Nice to —”

“You are fucking killing me. Oh my God. Who does your hair, baby Tarzan, the yard man? Do you own a razor? Smile. Okay, that’s good. Thank God your mother knew about dentists. Take your shirt off.”


“Take your shirt off. Good. You could use a little weight, not too much.” She lit a long, white filter cigarette. “You work out?”

“Yeah, I —”

“Good. Don’t stop. Eat a little more, protein mostly. Grab a burger, throw all of it away except the patty. An extra one every day until you pick up three to five pounds.” She pinched his chest. “Your cheeks will go chipmunk. Five, and no more. And keep them hard. Don’t go up a pants size, get meatier, not bigger. There’s a difference.” She pinched his waist for effect. “Run. Not too much, it kills your knees and I swear to God it makes people walk weird, but it’s good for your complexion. Get healthy. Stay healthy. Be healthy. Take your shirt off when you run. Anytime you’re outside,” she blew smoke sideways, ashed in someone’s nearby coffee cup. “I don’t need the makeup nightmare of dealing with redneck ring and farmer’s tan. Don’t stop working out. In fact, work out more. Where’s that damn phone?” Someone behind her set it on the desk she was leaning on. She pulled a small, green booklet out of her purse, flipped a few pages, dialed. “Olin? Shannon. Oh, you are too sweet. Kisses back. Neck up, this is the guy. Yeah, urban rugged. You’re my man, Olin.” She blew out a short cackle. “You are so naughty, darling. Okay, one of them.” She set the receiver down, looked at Jackson. “What was your name again?”


“Oh, that is terrif. Western-y. How tall are you?”

“Five eleven. And a half. Sometimes three-eighths, sometimes five-eighths —”

“Five-eleven. Couldn’t we just say six? No? No. Do me the biggest and don’t talk so much. I like it, honestly, the little accent, but slower would help. You’re not a hick, the drawl is good. Think about your golden radio voice. Practice on the phone. Call people, have normal conversation, only lower, and a little slower. Too slow with that you’re a Gomer. Tomorrow, three o’clock, with Olin.” She scribbled in the little green book, ripped a page out. “Here’s the addy. Sit in the chair, practice your voice. He knows what I want. You’re going to be gorgeous, I can tell. Where’s the girl?”

Jackson got ushered out of the small office the same way he’d been ushered in. Quickly.



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Published by

Phil Huston


14 thoughts on “NVDT #50 – Who Does Your Hair, Baby Tarzan? The Yard Man?”

  1. The rule of 3 X 3: three descriptions, three words each:
    > in worn camo cargos, knee waders and a long-sleeved work shirt.
    That’s all ya need. More than that and you get sucked into distracting, story-nonessential bangles and doodads.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Rules are like old folks’ diapers. Depends. Some need more, some get less. Sometimes physical gets mixed in. Hell, Jackson’s shadow gets sideburns, a windbreaker and soundless shoes. More is often good for POV astonishment. Good God, what have you done to your shoes? Without writing it out. 3×3 up there gets a Yamaha gimme cap later on. And a crumpled box of Marlboro reds. Bernie loses the sweat-soaked tank top down to a sweat-soaked exer bra. Sometimes not wanting to write out “he scratched an ear festooned with a surfboard earring” later, you just stick it on the front end.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. If the rhythm allows a 4 by or 5 by, then I’d welcome the extra detail. But, story essential, I think, should be the guiding light here.
        The 3×3 is one of those back-o-the-mind templates that should shadow one’s writing, not dictate it, I’ve learned that much about my “rules.”
        I get the placement concept. At a scenes opening, the rhythm would normally be measured, more room for extra. Later, as the tempo rises, dropping in atmosphere would trip up the cadence, gum up the pace.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Exactly. I try to think of detail add-in as a guide to tags. MAybe inside you need to break dialogue, you add “fiddled with a distressed NASCAR (or John Deere etc) ball cap.” More seasoning for atmosphere through action tags. I mean sneezed, all that won’t work except for “Sneezed into a faded bandana”. Why waste a sneeze when you can paint with it?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Painting with words, that may be one of the more prophetic notions you’ve offered.
        Fredrick Remington or Norman Rockwell paintings portrayed as words.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I love the humor in Rockwell, the American innocence. I grew up with Remington, my dad volunteered, helped open the Cowboy Hall of Fame. There were two Remingtons. Early, and late, and here is a good example of how painting and writing are siblings.
        “1. His subject matter became less straightforward and narrative, and far more ambiguous, sinister, and stripped of unnecessary information; 2. His style lost the hard-edged, cartoonish quality of illustration, and became more painterly; 3. After working with just black, white and gray for many years as an illustrator, he threw himself into mastering the use of color.” Now you can apply that lyricism to two of my faves, Taylor and Monet. Yeah yeah, big names, but you stand in front of their work and awe happens. Something about intent. Monet, paraphrased, Without intent it’s just globs of paint on canvas. One good brush stroke, followed by another. One good sentence, followed by another.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Depends on the setup. Boxers and Boots is plenty if it involves gunplay. Climbing in a truck with strangers sent by a once upon a boyfriend half a world away needs to paint a picture, unless of course she’s being kidnapped and we need to get to know the kidnappers earlier, without her. 3 x for a stranger in Deliverance land needs to gain creepy or ease off. Description and clothing are all about tone. Time for lazy, okay, time for now, get on with it!


    1. That girl, she’s another one that came out of the woodwork. Like the Valley Girl Ballerina. Only she’s a non-arteest artist with an extravagant “Masters in Commercial Design with free time and a glue gun” fashion sense. “I do art, it’s not a discussion we need to have.” Oh well. All these characters in the wrong homes. I need to do a collection of shorts with all these people who show up with a line.

      Liked by 1 person

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