Have you ever wondered why shoes come in identical pairs? Wouldn’t it be more interesting to mix things up a bit? Granted, heel height has to match to avoid that annoying monster-lurch as you walk, but why must your right foot be clad in the same color, style, and material as your left?
We don’t generally think about shoes much, unless they pinch. We do think about writing quite a bit, and that’s what led to the question of shoes. Specifically, we were tiptoeing around a topic for this post. While we were thinking on our feet, we started contemplating the characters we create and how to keep them from wearing our shoes—that is, from being too much like us.
You know where we’re going with this metaphor, of course, so here it is: As writers, we get to cobble shoes for our characters. Within the metaphor, there’s also the rub—who do the shoes fit? Our character? Or us, the writers?
For example, in our young adult novel, The SkyHorse, there are two pairs of mother/daughter characters in the forefront and one in the background. Of the main characters, Gramma wears pink socks, Mom favors sandals, and the young heroine, Tovi, likes sneakers. We can easily step into in any of those, and have.
Yet if the shoes fit us too well, different characters end up in identical footwear, figuratively speaking. The characters become interchangeable because they’re all like us. Conformity is okay for shoes, but not so much for the people who populate books.
Fortunately, we found a solution we think is a shoe-in. In our opinion, part of the pleasure of writing fiction is the opportunity to learn about our characters by walking in their shoes. So we slide into those puppies and set off, merrily hopping, skipping, and jumping through the twists and turns of the story. The goal is not to make the shoes our own, but to understand the people who actually wear them.
By the final page, our feet are sore, the shoes are scuffed, and we’re where we want to be—in step with our characters.
So far, none of our characters have taken a walk on the wild side and donned mismatched shoes. Still, they all dance to their own tune. We’re comfortable with that. You know what they say. If the shoe fits, let your character wear it.
What shoes do your characters wear? Let us know in the comments.
HL Carpenter—Read along with us!
Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter writes sweet, clean fiction that is suitable for everyone in your family. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit HLCarpenter.com to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.
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