The Importance of Footwear in Fiction

Shoes connect people. Through time and space. Walk in your characters shoes – literally – to write better fiction.

If your fiction has human characters, they likely have feet. And so, footwear, that daily triviality, becomes a massive connecting universal that nearly every reader understands.

At the heart of all good writing is the ability to capture details and universal experiences and translate them into the story on an intimately personal level. As creator and controller of your fiction characters’ minds and lives (easy there, Dr. Frankenstein), you are responsible for translating their life details (like clothing!) so that the reader vicariously experiences them.

Shoes are a great way to do this.

Shoes connect people. Throughout time, in most societies, across classes. Footwear not only signals to other characters (and the reader) a number of details about the wearer’s life, shoes also remind the wearer of their own circumstances.

Shoes affect your day. Comfortable vs. too-tight, inappropriate vs. worn or damaged. Like you, like your reader, your fictional characters’ footwear impacts their health, dexterity, speed, comfort, safety, and overall mobility. Untied sneakers with the soles flapping and popping at every step are not the same as designer flip flops with rhinestone studs, which are a different experience than wearing weathered cowboy boots.

Fiction Writing Tip of the Day:

Walk in your characters’ shoes.

Got an idea who a character is? Put on a pair of shoes that reflects that character when you write about him or her.

As a writing exercise, I recommend visiting a department or large shoe store and trying on styles that you think fit different characters. Then, write your experiences of wearing the shoes.

Write the sounds they made, the feel of the fabric, the tender spots they create on your feet. Write them in your character’s voice, if you can. If you don’t have a specific character in mind, then write a detailed, objective account so you can fit the details of your experience into the right voice when it comes along.

Think about the feet’s connection to the rest of the body. Your character might practice reflexology or have a detailed pedicure routine. Or your character might have nail fungus and callouses. Regardless of what they are like, there is a why they are that way.

The why largely has to do with footwear, and it can be key to your characters’ lives.

Have you found the right editor for your fiction?

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