Aug 15, 2012

If the Shoe Fits - Annie West

Recently I had my favourite shoes mended. They've trod my local streets as well as done me proud in Paris and Southern France. They're comfy and they make me smile whenever I look at them. Aren't they cute?

Looking at them made me realise how different they are from the black court shoes that figured so prominently in my life when I held down a serious five-day a week office career.

Which led me to thinking about shoes as indicators of character. Hey, I'm an author - I'm allowed to get away with such leaps of thought. It struck me how much I love the tiny peripheral details that indicate character in a story. Rather than being told a heroine is serious or sassy, flirtatious or grounded, I adore finding out through telling little details in the way people respond to her, what her habits are and, yes, what she wears.

Does she wear strappy, high heeled sandals? Does she wear them easily or does she struggle with the heels? Is she unused to wearing them? My current heroine is getting used to wearing high heels for the first time in years and the reason she's not used to them - well, that's part of her backstory and reveals a lot about why she acts the way she does. I've had heroines who wear teetering jewel-studded stilettos without a second thought and that says a lot about their lives and their self confidence too, or perhaps about a role they're determined to play in public.

I had a heroine who met her Prince Charming when he was in Italian hand stitched shoes and she wore gumboots. Even when she became a princess, she didn't always conform with the general expectation of what a royal should wear, because that didn't sit with her personality or preferences. I recall her making public appearances in tailored jackets, jeans and low-heeled boots. Would she wear blue suede boots? Probably, if they were as comfortable as these.

And it's not just my heroines I recall because of their footwear. Michelle Douglas wrote a memorable heroine with a penchant for Doc Martins. Liz Fielding had a marvellous heroine who favoured boots too - not the high heeled fashion variety but the solid, business-like don't-mess-with-me type. In both cases they revealed character and reinforced what we were beginning to discover about the heroine.

And of course, if we want to talk romance heroines, Cinderella is up there with the best of them, with her memorable lost slipper. Given the fact so many women adore shoes, even looking at ones they'd never wear themselves, I think a passing reference to a heroine's (or hero's) footwear preferences interests readers.

I love the idea of a heroine at home at one of those times when any sane woman wouldn't like the man of her dreams walking in on her - hair in a towel, face pack on, embarrassing cartoon pjs and fluffy slippers - and of course having Mr Tall Dark and Delicious arrive. Would she kick off the slippers and hide them, brazen it out or have the self confidence not to mind at all? Her reaction would tell a lot about her, and possibly grab our interest and sympathy.

What about you? Do your shoes tell something about your character, job or life? What are the most memorable shoes you've owned or seen? What sort would you like to own or perhaps provide for a romance heroine?


  1. What a great post! And selection of shoes!! I am shoe person, in real life and a little in my books. The story I sent off last night featured an executive personal assistant who wore shoes that could have been modelled by Minnie Mouse - or so the hero thought LOL
    Looking forward to seeing on the Gold Coast Annie!

  2. I absolutely think shoes can say a lot about a heroine, Annie. And I love, love, love your favorite shoes. They make me smile too whenever I see you wear them. :-)

    Me? I'd love to stride out confident and comfortable in a pair of skyscraper stilettos. Unfortunately, I'd be more likely to fall flat on my face, so I best stick to low heeled boots. Will look forward to checking out all the gorgeous shoes at the conference!

  3. Ah, Annie I love your favorite shoes! I wish I could wear something like that but I've always been very conservative with clothes and shoes - I've always worn way too much black and had shoes to match. Now, I'm trying to break out of my black shell, so hopefully the colorful shoes will follow...

  4. Robbie, I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. I'm curious about your Minnie Mouse shoed heroine! That conjures quite a picture.
    Looking forward to seeing you at the conference too. It's gorgeous here this afternoon. I've to the door open to the balcony with the sea breeze coming in - just perfect!

  5. Michelle, isn't it a nuisance that reality and imagination doesn't always coincide? It would be terrific to stride out in high shoes and made a statement.

    I've brought the floral shoes to the conference so I'll make sure to wear them while I"m here.

  6. Louisa, I hear you on the conservative shoes. That was me too. I always got shoes I thought would go with everything and especially work. Now though, I find that I'm buying shoes that are a bit more fun and because they're in colours I like, then I'm getting even more use from them than I'd expected.

  7. My shoes will tell you I always go for comfort first. I will be bold with colours though.

  8. Annie, I love your favourite shoes, too! They are so snazzy!

    I'm pretty conservative with shoes - tend to go for basic black and navy and cream. But one of my fave pairs of shoes was bright red! And I wore them out - so maybe I need to quit with the conservative and let my hair down... or let my feet out to run wild!

  9. Marybelle, I'm with you on comfort! Otherwise why wear them.