Writing about short people

I read an interesting article on Mental Floss today about Gillian Anderson and the “Scully Box”, a contraption she used to be closer in height to David Duchovny.  It seems Anderson is pretty short, and it’s one of those typical things you don’t think much about when you are think about actors, but getting sight lines right is probably a pretty big problem when you have a very tall actor interacting with a very short actor.  Thus the “apple box” that is pretty common to those in the business.

I realized, oddly enough, that it applies to writing too.  I rarely consider sight lines, but there’s something to be said for what happens when a short character is talking to a tall character. Now in some cases it’s easy – either the scene doesn’t call for glances back and forth, or everyone is sitting down, but it’s funny that you don’t really think about how someone who’s short would have problems dealing with someone taller than them.  Basically unless there’s a reason to call out the difference, there’s very little ever noted about height differences, and yet they do make a big difference in how people carry themselves and how folks treat other people.

It’s sort of wired into our heads the someone shorter, and I mean demonstrably shorter, like 7″+ shorter, needs to be treated like a child.  This isn’t surprising; kids are short.  But it’s funny that when you get to the point of two adults speaking with one another, the taller person will usually take on the role of the elder personality.  There is no “apple box” for that.  It’s a strange thing to even realize that it happens.  It’s like realizing that your jaw has weight and you are constantly holding it up, or that thinking about breathing improves your rhythm.  It’s just natural, like a well worn groove.

The more you think about it, the more you realize that you take for granted the angles and sight lines of your own world.  Consider this, you see things at a slightly different angle than someone who is two inches shorter than you.  That means that your viewing angle shows you a different perspective, so colors look different to you than they do to your shorter friend.

It’s just something to think about and most importantly to remember that no matter what your size, there’s someone taller and someone shorter than you.


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