I love a pretty shoe. Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, and Christian Louboutin—they light up my eyes and cause my heart to race. I walk into a fine department store, head for the shoe section, and just breathe in the new shoe air. My eyes caress the soft leather and stroke the many colors. Sometimes, I try them on.
I am deceptively clever at getting the sales people to bring them out to me. The secret is to dress well, and look as though you have nothing but disdain for shopping. Alas, shopping is a necessity so, bring me those Jimmy Choos in a size eight, please!
After I’ve admired them in the full-length mirror, I quietly remove them, slip them back into the box, and go on my way. I didn’t say that I own a pretty shoe. I just love them. The higher the heel, the fonder I am. So what if I might fall, and as my mom was so fond of predicting, break my neck!
The more expensive the heel, the more I lust after them. Not one designer actually resides in my humble closet? Yet, I still get to have as many pairs as I want, whenever I want.
How? I’m a writer. I can write whatever I want! I construct a scene and in it, I streamline my body, elongate my limbs, shave 15 years off my age, and name myself Miranda Mandalay Scott.
Miranda is a secretary for the honorable Judge Johnson Nelson David, the youngest judge in U. S. history. Handsome Judge David once commented on a lawyer who wore a pair of Manolo Blahniks to court. Miranda, a shoe connoiseur herself, had always known she and Judge David were soul mates. Since then, Miranda has been saving her lunch money and walking to work (in practical shoes) in order to purchase her first designer pair.
All of Miranda’s friends think she’s crazy, but she’ll do anything to get Judge David to notice her. He’s out of her league, but maybe when he spies her silk encased leg, one crossed over the other during dictation, his eyes will pop. His words will get stuck in his throat, and Miranda’s swinging foot, encased in 4-inch Red Bottom sandals, will grab his manly attention.
“Who are you, vixen?” he’ll cry and realization of his love for Miranda Mandalay Scott will overwhelm him!
Miranda’s friends will be sorry they ever scoffed at her stupidity and before they know it, she will have become Mrs. Judge David, able to strut her stuff on the streets of Rodeo Drive while shopping for the highest heels ever made.
Wow! It doesn’t take much to get me started. This morning a Saks ad appeared on the side of my email page. I clicked on a pair of Jimmy Choos, followed the ad to Saks and started scrolling through the designer shoes. If you’re familiar with my novel, you know that the heroine in The Neon Houses loves shoes.
I hadn’t even considered that I was transferring my love of shoes onto her during the writing of the scene where her young visitors exclaim over her designer shoes. The shoes were just something I added to make Noel real and to give her character another dimension.
This morning, I got it! Writers can have anything we imagine. We can imbue our characters with all of our wants and desires and for the time it takes to write the story, live vicariously through them.
I used shoes but you can use anything you desire. Character traits you wish you had or endearing quirks that you admire or dislike in others can be manifest in any of your characters. Is your character too straight-forward and kind of boring? Change that cardboard image by giving her a tick—a stutter that only presents itself when she’s lying or excited, or when she finds herself in the company of the one she secretly loves.
Give him or her an affliction. We all suffer from something that we wish to overcome. Allow him to find love in spite of or because of whatever ails him. Adapt any idea or condition to your character’s situation and make us feel for and with him.
It’s not too late to add some life, character, and real-ness. Go back and look at your characters. Do you have a smart mouth? Then you know that it’s impossible to control that. You struggle with keeping quiet, and it has cost you dearly. Give that struggle to your character. Be careful not to let it take over the character’s personality, but certainly make the smart mouth (or whatever trait) a minor character in the story.
After a while, your readers will begin to anticipate when a smart mouth is going to shoot off or when a nervous stutter is going to emerge just as the hero is about to speak to his dream girl. This encourages empathy and causes your readers to care.
Grab some character traits. Bring them out when your character least expects them. Give your characters an added dimension by having them crave a race car, a Villa in Italy or another grand desire that will shine reality on their lives. Believe me, your readers will identify with these desires and your writing will take on more meaning as you connect in a new way!