These Boots Were Made For Walkin’

Walking in these shoes requires a bunion on the left first toe...

 

Sometimes, it just takes the right pair of shoes to get me into character.

I never feel as good in pretty flip flops as I do in a set of black leather boots complete with grommets and straps to pull them on with.  And as irreverent as it is, shoes are important for characters too.

Think of your most dainty, frilly character.  Now put him or her in a pair of steel-toed work boots and try to write him or her the same way.  The same goes for your toughest ass-kicking, name taking he-man of a she-woman.  Does it fit to have him or her in a pair of Buster Browns or Farragamo heels?  Even if for humor’s sake, I’m willing to bed that it makes those characters harder to write.

I wore my big black boots, certainly not my biggest pair, but big enough, to work today, and I felt like I could kick the ass of anyone in my way.  No, no; it has nothing to do with the endless frustration of working a menial desk job in an industry as cold and unfeeling as a speculum (life insurance).  Okay, maybe a little, but still, if I had been wearing flip flops, it would have never occurred to me to imagine what it would be like to kick the living shit out of the sycophantic little ass kisser in the customer service department.

Clothing and especially footwear can set the mood for your characters and your stories.  A moment of peril can be symbolized by torn clothing or missing shoes.  Great joy can come from beautiful costume frocks and slippers with roses as big as dahlias.  Black is the perpetual color of mourning and bad assery, while white is perfect for the innocent or the super evil.  Some authors fear about writing about clothing and shoes too much, but there is a happy medium out there.

I swear.  There is.

Three paragraphs for one person’s appearance?  Okay.

Three paragraphs for one person’s blue button up shirt?  Not okay.

Get the idea?

On the same topic, the clothing or shoes do not even have to be all that special.  One item of clothing might be acceptably unique, but wracking your brain to give every single person a special “look” is a task reserved for those who write crappy self-insert fanfiction and manga artists.  To me, a long black trench is trumped in sexiness any day by a simple black button down shirt and jeans.

Keep your uber special, ultra rare, made of a fiber only found in one country on the entire planet, non-replaceable coats and gowns of silver lace for the costume ball that I’m sure is in your story later on anyway, you closeted Labyrinth fan you.  Allow the umbra of plain clothing to envelope you in its cold, uncreative embrace.

And hear the world cheer in relief.

One of my characters wears biker boots, but only chapters after she was forced to run down streets in her stiletto heels.  Did it make for good fiction?  Yeah, but only because I wrote in how painful it was for her, and how her poor choice in shoes effected the outcome of what happened shortly afterwards, just as wearing uncomfortable shoes to work would keep you from being affective.  Keep it in mind, folks, that while your boots may be for walking, they might not be right for your character’s path.

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