Writing Advice: Describe the Shoes

I’m not published or anything, but I have been writing for a while.  And over the years, you begin to pick up tips and tricks about what works versus what doesn’t.  You hear authors explain that this works or that does; you figure out strong writing from what you read, whether you’re consciously studying a text or not; and little tidbits trickle down to you from the most unlikely of places.

Pinterest, for me, didn’t start as a writing tool.

I mostly used it to indulge my grandiose chef delusions.  Or to find fan-art.  Or learn how to dress myself because my friends kept telling me that yoga pants weren’t appropriate for the workplace (which, I mean, I still don’t completely understand why not, but oh well).

Writing advice began to sprout through the cracks of my Pinterest account, as if it knew that I dabbled by magic.  Most of it was advice I’d already picked up at workshops or reading blogs by already published authors.

Some of it was new, offering tips on things I’d never thought of before.

I (like I’m sure many of you Pinterst users can attest to) failed to pin this particular little gem.  So I’m afraid I can’t afford credit.  But it was a simple little snapshot of someone’s Tumblr with this advice:

“When you start to describe someone, start with their shoes.”

The longer I thought about it, the more sense it made.  Authors, especially in YA, start with hair and eye color.  And yeah, I love me a dark-haired-blue-eye-Greek-god as much as the next girl, but if you really want to get to the heart of a person, if you really want to see their character shining through, then start by describing their shoes.

Are they designer or off-brand?

Are they well-worn or brand new?

Are they made with a loud pattern or color, or more soft and demure?

Are they scuffed up?

Do they even have shoes?

What material are she shoes made out of?

Are they more for fashion or more for functionality?

Picture this: A man sits at a bus stop.  He wears black shoes, the kind your father always wore to church or work.  But they’re old, the inky blackness dulled to a dark gray and the soles worn thin.  Yet, despite their age, they’ve been well-taken care of.

Beside him sits another man.  He’s wearing black combat boots, fit snug.  The shoelaces are tied perfectly, the ends of either side the exact same length, as if he measured before leaving the house.  A well-known designer logo sits over the ankle of the boot, black on black.

We’ve got three sentences describing the shoes of each man.  Nothing else is described.  And yet, reading these few lines, I’ve already formed ideas about these two men.  In my mind, I see what kind of person they are because of their shoes and how they’ve interacted with them.  I have guesses as to their jobs, their lifestyles, their personalities.  And all from three lines each about their respective shoes.

Much better than describing their hair color, right?

 

What kind of men do you think they are?  Comment below!

 

 

18 thoughts on “Writing Advice: Describe the Shoes

  1. Wow.

    I think the fist man, although his shoes are already worn out and old, he still wears it, even takes good care of it, I think he is a man of dedication, might already have a family as well, I think he doesn’t belong to the corporate world, he may be doing simple jobs that requires hard labor.

    I think the second man came from a well-off family, he is wearing designer’s shoes, must be leading an opulent lifestyle, he could be a company CEO or Manager.

    Like

      1. I also thought of him as a tad of a perfectionist because of the shoelaces and maybe a macho man because he’s wearing combat boots. But the great thing is you can tease out those characteristics later through dialogue, interactions with other characters, etc. The shoes just lay the groundwork. Your answer was spot on though–I did imagine him as the head of something (being a macho man, he wouldn’t like to be submissive) and well-off financially.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh no! What page are you trying to find? Facebook or Wattpad? And I’m glad to hear that the piece made you think–it really got me thinking when I first came across that post too.

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      3. How weird! I haven’t changed anything, so I wonder why it isn’t working. The main page is elizalainn.com if that helps. I’m sorry–I’m not sure what’s going on with it.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oh that one! Yeah, the guy I was writing it with moved so we decided to just cut it off. We weren’t getting much engagement with it so there wasn’t really a point in keeping it going after he left.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yeah, the Eliza Lainn page is all me. It’s focused more on my writing as opposed to the nonprofit work of the one that we deleted.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I have to say, what you’ve written here is very inspiring and brave. You have a remarkable talent and I am in awe. Amazing! I hope you could follow my blog and maybe you could be inspired as well.

    Like

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