Nudity in literature is so much different than nudity in visual media. You can say someone’s naked all the time, and no one bats an eye because no one has to see more than they want to. I love literature.
There’s no getting around it. Cry Wolf‘s Kelly loves being naked. When she’s clothed, she likes covering all the way up in vintage-inspired, somewhat twee clothing that covers all her tattoos – since she grew up a little conservative. Not a lot, but she was exposed to some more extremist views during her teenager years, so she has that interesting contrast between exposing nothing and exposing everything. She doesn’t suffer any self-consciousness about the two extremes, though. Kelly likes clothes, and she likes being naked. She doesn’t need to overanalyze things she likes as long as they aren’t bothering anyone.
It’s an interesting dynamic among my shapeshifters and werewolves in the Sanctuary trilogy, even during the dead of winter – there’s a lot of walking around naked and half-naked on the part of those who sometimes go around in fur.
Part of it is that the sanctuary was conceived as a communal living type of environment – almost utopic, at least for Winter Howl‘s Renee, who can handle people in small doses as long as they’re in her space and occasionally furry. (Renee, incidentally, prefers clothes and keeping nakedness more private unless she’s drunk an aphrodisiac, and most people don’t care about clothing at that point. Renee and I share a ‘more comfortable clothed’ policy.)
But my shapeshifters and especially my werewolves, they just let their nethers swing in the breeze like it’s no one’s business. The other reason for their frequent nudity has to do with easy transitions. Not only do they not see the purpose of clothing for modesty’s sake when their other half doesn’t need anything more than fur, not wearing clothes makes it a whole lot easier to access their animal side without ruining a good pair of pants or getting tangled in one’s shirt. Even Renee’s parents eventually saw it that way, which was why when the shapeshifters made themselves known when Renee was a kid, they just kind of let it happen, so Renee grew up not thinking people’s bodies were that big of a deal, any more than dog’s bodies were a big deal. We’re all animals to her.
For the werewolves, it also makes satisfying their more active (not to mention more violent) libidos a whole lot easier, too. Their more heated bodies make being naked in the winter more viable than it is for the shapeshifters, who can still get frostbite if they’re out in the Wisconsin winter elements for too long.
I must admit, as a perpetually clothed person and a woman in an intensely critical society, writing a nudist colony was kind of freeing. I mean, they probably have some insecurities about their physical presence (especially Max, who has some size issues…with the dog he turns into), but they also lack some of the conventional hang-ups people try to hide behind their clothing. Everyone knows everyone else’s sagging areas and the size of their dangly bits – everyone has a first row seat to the signs of aging or gaining or losing weight, growing hard or going soft. Nothing’s a surprise, and nothing is judged.
It just is what it is, just like none of them would criticize a dog or another wolf for the same attributes. True judging according to character and not on looks, because once you bare all and everyone moves on from that, it stops becoming such an issue.
I think what it comes down to is that I like writing shapeshifters and werewolves because they’re so damn comfortable in their own skins.
Do your characters have nudity hang-ups, physical insecurities? What is it about writing nudity that’s just so freeing? Anyone else have this experience?
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