How can you write about a naked character, without using the word naked, or nude, or bare, or nekkid, skyclad, au naturel or any of those terms? It’s not all that difficult, but it can be a challenge, and it points to the intrinsic nature of writing as opposed to the visual arts: the play between what the writer may make obvious or explicit, and what the writer might leave up to the imagination of the reader.
Such was the challenge that we took on as a small group of naturist writers at the workshop that D. H. Jonathan and I ran last June at the AANR-SW convention at Oaklake Trails Naturist Park. Dan (D. H. Jonathan) produced a great write-up of the event that appeared in the most recent AANR Bulletin, and I wrote a profile of Dan’s work for my Disrobing Suspense series. We gave the writers about ten minutes to produce a description of someone, nude, in any kind of setting but without using the words listed above. Dan and I wrote entries for the exercise as well.
One man wrote of a friend of his, in the moment that she first got up the courage to drop her clothes at the beach. Another participant veered off topic and ended up writing about her childhood (hey, when the spirit moves you…). Here’s my entry:
He wasn’t the tallest, he realized, but at least he wasn’t the shortest. And even as he felt this, he wondered why that would be any more important undressed than dressed. And he felt sorry to have thought that. What did it matter? Did he pity the shortest guy? Not really.
So he stepped forward, just as all the other guys did, one by one onto the scale. Then he stepped to the side and extended his arms, and bent over, then stood upright again, and turned his head and coughed, and extended his arm for blood to be drawn, and all the other steps the athletes on the track team had to take to get through their physical. And he thought, if he was embarrassed at first, now he felt proud, completely unashamed standing unclothed among his peers. He understood that what he really felt, was good.
I wrote that based on my memory of being on the junior high cross-country team back in the early 80s. What to do with that recollection now? Maybe I’ll incorporate it into some story or longer piece at some point, but in any case, when it came to me in the moment, unbidden, it helped reinforce for me how many contexts there used to be (and hopefully still are) for social nudity.