Given the title of this blog, you may perhaps be wondering what black eyeliner has to do with writing. This is a question I pondered myself as the idea for this post took root. The bottom line is, I love black eyeliner, and lots of it. In fact, as far as appearance goes, my living dead eye makeup is probably one of my trademarks. What does this say about me? I’m not sure. However, as a writer, I do think that little quirks like this, superficial or not, are integral to developing characters.
Whether I like it or not, the way I appear to others affects how they perceive me. I believe the same is true for fictional characters. If a character always has a note to himself written on the palm of his hand, this may suggest that he’s absent-minded, laid back, or a combination of the two. Depending on the context, it could also signify something completely different. Obviously, these external quirks can only play a supporting role in the character development process, but when used effectively, I believe they can allow a writer to convey information without beating the reader over the head with it.
This brings us back to the concept of black eyeliner. It goes without saying that out-of-context assumptions are always dangerous. That being said, I think that one quality shared by all who rock the raccoon eyes is a sense of boldness. As evidence, I present ten of my favorite fictitious smokey-eyed characters:
1. Mimi Marquez (RENT)
2. Margot Tennenbaum (The Royal Tennenbaums)
3. Eric Draven (The Crow)
4. St. Jimmy (American Idiot, Broadway)
5. Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean)
6. Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
7. Germain (Foamy the Squirrel)
8. Blind Mag (Repo! The Genetic Opera)
9. Harley Quinn (DC, Various Batman Comics, Gotham City Sirens, etc.)
10. Ziggy Stardust (One of David Bowie’s most famous alter egos!)
Each of these characters is bold in some way. Mimi Marquez is fearless, Jack Sparrow is a rogue, and Eric Draven is an avenger. Granted, some of these characters are bold in ways that are less admirable: Harley Quinn is a criminal, St. Jimmy is a rabble-rousing heroin addict. Still, regardless of their faults, these are characters I love. They are a diverse bunch, pulled from many different media and storylines, but they are united by the way they live their invented little lives.
Obviously, the qualities I love about the characters mentioned aren’t merely suggested by their choice of eye makeup. They are masterfully crafted through dialogue, conflict, and many other elements. Furthermore, sometimes the external is at odds with the internal. Sometimes that’s the whole point. A character can’t hang on a few superficial details. But sometimes, it’s a good place to start.