A few ideas for Book Day/Week (How long have you got?)
 
Firstly, The Goodies
 

There are undoubtedly a large number of literary heroes - many books are named after them! When it comes to costumes for adults for a Book Day/Week style event, the first consideration is your market/audience. If you are a teacher, learning assistant or similar, you are obviously looking to portray someone your students will be familiar with (which may have a lot to do with their age). It may also be that you and your assistant are looking to portray a literary or linked pair. Similarly, the age of the character is another factor. Even small children have a good idea what age (or size) their favourite characters should be, so an adult playing a youthful –say- Dick Whittington might not work.

 On a wider scale, it may be true to say that in some respects ‘film goodies’ offer more choice than literary characters and even then, some book character outfits are available only because there has been a film adaptation. Of course such costumes are one interpretation of characters who are ‘created’ in the reader’s imagination, but films shape people’s perceptions of appearance. In other cases, there may be a particular aspect of clothing or prop which ‘makes’  the character. As with a costume party, it helps if your character is easily recognisable. Anyway, as with our companion Literary Baddies piece (below, after this Goodies bit), we start off with a quick list of characters usually easily found ‘off-the-peg’ perhaps on the Internet, but not necessarily from us here at Antrix.

The Cat in the Hat. Distinctive Dr Seuss character, key costume elements being the tall red/white stripe hat and big red bowtie. A potential ‘partner’ is Sally, a girl in a white blouse and green apron/pinafore dress. An alternative pairing is/are Thing One & Two.

The Mad Hatter. (Lewis Carroll) Popular character, now available in two styles – the ‘classic’ style and the slightly more madcap Johnny Depp interpretation. Obviously once again the hat (with price tag in hatband) and bowtie are key items. Partner characters can be the March Hare, Dormouse or, of course, Alice.

Alice in Wonderland. (Lewis Carroll) Another popular choice of character. The traditional style is light blue dress with a white pinafore apron but variations are available thanks to the more recent Tim Burton film. As a partner, aside from the Hatter mentioned above, the White Rabbit or Queen of Hearts suggest themselves.

The Queen of Hearts can, of course, stand as a literary character in her own right – either Alice style, or more nursery-rhyme mainstream with The Knave (or King) of Hearts as a partner.

Where’s Wally/Wanda (or Waldo). A character who probably needs no introduction.

Dorothy Gale & companions  (L Frank Baum) Another potentially popular group of characters. Whilst Dorothy might be the ‘leader’, one of the others (Lion/Tinman/Scarecrow) may prove more visual, and female versions are available (although some might consider them a little skimpy for some environments).

Dumbledore/Merlin. (JK Rowling/Sir Arthur Mallory) The wizard headmaster Dumbledore is obviously familiar to those who have grown up with the Harry Potter books and films. Thanks to a recent TV series, the younger generation are probably most familiar with Merlin as a young boy but, of course, technically Dumbledore and Merlin share similar traits and have a potential wow factor.

Sherlock Holmes. (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) Another character that has undergone a recent modern reimagining, but the classic Inverness cape, deerstalker and meerschaum pipe (plus magnifying-glass) is the stereotypical (if rather inaccurate) look.

Cleopatra & Anthony. (Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw) Arguably, Cleopatra works as a standalone character whilst Anthony could be just another Roman unless put in context. Unfortunately Cleo and Anthony are often a popular costume choice pairing, but if your heart is set on this couple, you’ll just have to step up your game and, with our help, knock the competition asp over apex (a pyramid reference, of course).

Mary Poppins & Bert the Sweep.  (PL Travers) Another couple where the female character works on her own and puts her partner in context.

Roald Dahl characters are always popular, and amongst the leading Goodies are Willie Wonka,  the famous chocolate factory owner,  and Fantastic Mr Fox, perhaps classified as a children’s book character, but this vulpine hero was played by/voiced by George Clooney in the animated film.  

Are the choices so far a little too kiddie orientated for you? Try these from the Dark Side. (We’ll assume that Dracula doesn’t Count as a Goodie).

Dr Jeykll & Mr Hyde (The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson) Interesting dual personality character covering both Goodie and Baddie camps. You might find one of those half-n-half costumes which embodies the two, but the character is open is improvisation.

The Invisible Man (The Invisible Man – HG Wells) ‘Goodie’ status may be questionable as he turns a little vindictive in the later stages, but rather like Frankenstein’s Monster below, he’s probably just a victim of circumstance. There has been an IM costume available, but for various technical reasons, some couldn’t see it working as a party outfit. The bandaged head and sunglasses approach might work better.

Frankenstein’s Monster (Frankenstein – Mary Shelley) Literary/Halloween crossover character familiar to most people. The Bride of Frankenstein is unfortunately more a creation of the movie-makers seeking a sequel to the original film.

Quasimodo (Hunchback of Notre-Dame – Victor Hugo) Another Halloween-orientated character.

Death (Discworld books – Pratchett) A more off-beat book character, Death is a full-on Grim Reaper of few words but tending to MAKING AN IMPRESSION WHEN HE DOES SO.

Characters born of Myth and Legend

Greek and Roman Myth and Legend are filled with such male hero characters as Hercules, Ajax and Jason. Unfortunately, aside from goddesses doing good deeds and saving mortals, there are few Greek myth heroines. The nearest we have is Medea, who assisted Jason in obtaining the Golden Fleece, betraying her own family and people in the process, but then being betrayed herself and exacting a terrible revenge.

Beowolf (Old English poem). The fearless warrior Beowolf battles the demon Grendel and incurs wrath from other dark forces

Conan the Barbarian (Robert E Howard) – A Sword and Sorcery of the Dark Ages character created in the 1930s but now associated with movies starring the then unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Tarzan (Edgar Rice Burroughs) Possibly the most famous character creation of this author, but not one for a cold day! 

Game of Thrones (George R R Martin)is ‘a modern multi-volume classic of political machinations in a medieval-style land’, a summary which may not do the work justice. Although the popular TV series is arguably aimed at a late teen/adult audience, access to DVDs means there may be a multi-age fanbase: Fans obviously have their favourite characters, and although off-the-peg outfits are not always easy to come by, medieval outfits and the use of the heraldic devices and sigils of the families in the series may create a satisfactory outfit impression.

Lord of the Rings (3 books) and The Hobbit (J RR Tolkien) Both  works offer a wide range of potential characters (although unfortunately not too many are female) notably Gandalf, Frodo (and Bilbo) Baggins, Gimli the dwarf warrior and Legolas the elfish archer.

King Arthur, Guinevere & Lancelot (Mallory) Having mentioned Merlin earlier, other leading characters from the Age of Chivalry could be chosen.

Robin Hood (Traditional) Robin and his Merrie Men (plus Maid Marion) are heroes of English folklore

A few modern Goodies..

James Bond (Ian Fleming) – Often requested in connection with movies or a standalone Bond theme, the basic tuxedo or Naval Commander might be favoured, but you could also draw on some of the movie incarnations – Sir Hilary (OHMSS), Frogman (Thunderball). The later films, though offering strong female roles, wandered from the actual Bond book characters, so Pussy Galore (Goldfinger) might be the best bet for a Bond female.

Holly Golightly (Breakfast at Tiffanys – Truman Capote) Call girl tart-with-a-heart made famous (or at least more familiar) by Audrey Hepburn’s film interpretation.

Lisbeth Salander (Millenium trilogy – Stieg Larsson) Punky computer hacker who has been portrayed in two different film adaptations. The dragon tattoo is a starting point to the look, and slogan t-shirts could also be useful.

Rincewind (T. Pratchett) The flipside to Merlin, Rincewind is the inept wizard from the early Discworld books (he has a hat inscribed ‘Wizard’ for the benefit of those unsure)

Arthur Dent (Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy books – Douglas Adams) Hapless earthling rescued from Earth just before it was blown up to create a by-pass. Classic outfit involves a dressing gown and all-important towel.  

Does your interpretation of literary characters run to comic books and graphic novels? Aside from the obvious cop-out of Batman, Superman etc, try these..

 V –(V for Vendetta graphic novel  Alan Moore) Rebellious anti-hero who models his masked look upon the British 17th century participant in the Gunpowder Plot,  Guy Fawkes. The look has been widely adopted by modern-day activists.

The Watchmen (Watchmen – Alan Moore) Goodies? Well superheroes have fallen from grace in this ‘alternative history’ story, and not all heroes are as they seem, but thanks to the film of the novel, a range of character costumes are available.

TintinHerge. The famous boy detective with a quiff who has recently moved from comic book to big screen.

Snoopy  & Peanuts characters (Charles Schulz): Stretches the book character concept to comic strips, but these are some of the most successful comic strip characters ever, and the Peanuts gang, having recently celebrated their  65th anniversary in 2015, are probably worth a mention.

 

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Some costume ideas may be a little too obscure!

.....and then there are The Baddies
 

Right – if you’re short of time and don’t want to read the whole article, here’s a sort of speed-read of ten quick ideas which need little explanation and which you (but unfortunately also anybody else) should be able to find at any costume outlet.

Captain HookPeter Pan

Cruella de Vil101 Dalmatians

Dracula - Dracula

Frankenstein’s Monster - Frankenstein

Fu ManchuFu Manchu

Hannibal LectorRed Dragon/Silence of the Lambs

MedusaGreek Myths & Legends

Queen of HeartsAlice in Wonderland

Sheriff of NottinghamRobin Hood

Wicked Witch of the WestWizard of Oz

Meanwhile, initially, let’s work with a few specific authors;

Charles Dickens, the English Victorian author offers a wide range of characters in his books and with the help of a suitable Victorian outfit you could adopt the identity of many of them. Amongst those that stand out are;

Fagin, the ‘pickpocket gangmaster’ of Oliver Twist; Long black coat (with internal pockets), grey wig and black skull cap.

Scrooge, the meanie who comes good in A Christmas Carol : White Victorian nightshirt, night cap, half-moon glasses, grey wig

Miss Havisham, the embittered spinster of Great Expectations; (and recently popularised through BBc's 'Dickensian') All pale and cobweby! The outfit marketed as Ghostly Girl (or similar) can be useful here.

Wackford Squeers, the cruel schoolmaster of Dotherboys Hall in David Copperfield;  Grab a cane and channel the style of the schoolmaster from Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’

Shakespeare may not have written many novels, but he did manage a few plays  – books of a different type. Often the character is revealed in the words rather than the look, but here are a few suggestions.

Lady Macbeth co-conspirator with her husband  in the murder of King Duncan – hence the blood-stained hands.

Richard III the alleged hunchback and killer (by proxy) of little princes. Medieval king costume (with a hunch).

Shylock an unfortunate Jewish stereotype from The Merchant of Venice but the pound of flesh thing is not the most endearing idea. You could use the same outfit as Fagin (above) but carry a large fake knife and one of those luggage weight-scales!

Amongst modern authors, horror writer Stephen King has created many memorable villainous characters, and in this case, because many have been made into movies, there are some ready-made outfits available.

Pennywise the Clown, the evil horror entity from the book ‘IT’. Aside from the male version, we have seen a female variation on the market.

Carrie, the telekinetic teenager from the book of the same name. This book has actually been made as a movie twice but the result’s the same – it gets messy at the Prom.

Jack Torrance, distracted caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in ‘The Shining’. Slight sideways thinking here as you find an axe, an Overlook Hotel T-shirt from movie-tee specialist suppliers and do your best Jack Nicholson ‘Here’s Johnny’ bit (That line was never in the book, Nicholson improvised it for the film!)

 Annie Wilkes, the dedicated literary superfan from ‘Misery’. Again, you characterisation may be influenced by the Kathy Bates version seen in the film, but a Misery book and mallet may be useful props!

As we’re talking a horror author here, there are a few King novels for which you could use generic horror outfits – Zombies (Pet Semetary), the Devil (Salem’s Lot & Needful Things) and ‘nosferatu-style’ vampires ‘The Night Flyer’.

There’s also everyone’s favourite cannibal, Hannibal Lector, from the books Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, etc. by Thomas Harris.

Whilst we’re in horror mode, we might mention that the Devil/Satan turns up in many guises in other literature, notably Milton’s Paradise Lost (where Satan is the rebellious fallen angel) and Marlowe’s Dr Faustus, where, as Mephistopheles, he persuades the Doctor to sell his soul. If the full red Horned One outfit is a little OTT, try a more subtle approach with a smart suit (male or female), a red pointed tail hanging from the rear and some small head-horns!

Road Dahl is a popular author often portrayed at Book Days/Weeks. He tends to do ‘grotesque’ rather than horror, and amongst the villains in his works are Agatha Trunchbull (Matilda) and the Grand Witch (The Witches).

Lemony Snicket also does larger-than-life and offers us Count Olaf from A Series of Unfortunate Events

From the devious, there are also villainous masters (and mistresses) of the Dark Arts : Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter), White Witch (Narnia) Sauron & Witch King of Angmar (Lord of the Rings)

 

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