Friday, 6 April 2018


Tomorrow, I’m going to a wedding. This is the long-awaited day for two people I love very deeply and I’ve been looking forward to it with both excitement and trepidation.

I am excited because weddings can be joyous occasions and this one, put together on a small budget, will be full of love and happiness. I have been involved with some of the arrangements and have no doubt the day will be creative, idiosyncratic and very wonderful.

But I am full of trepidation because of my shoes 

Don’t laugh! Being on my feet most of the day is tiring. All that standing, walking and dancing for hours on end demands the right footwear. Normally, that would imply slippers inside the house and trainers outside. But, when I am at a wedding my footwear needs to be more than comfortable. It also needs to be appropriate, stylish and elegant. It means wearing the dreaded high heels.

Put simply, high heels hurt. I am not accustomed to them. At a wedding, of course, I try not to show the agony as I dance or ‘work the room’. My smile is genuine, but it also masks the pain in my lower limbs and after it’s all over, a trek to the nearest station can be hell.

I want to enjoy this wedding from beginning to end and so I decided to go in to training. I started slowly and built up an hour at a time until I could wear heels all day long without any adverse affect. For the best part of a month, I have worn heels in the house and outside. I still wear walking boots when yomping across the hills because I’m not that much of an idiot, but at all other times my slippers and trainers have stayed on the shelf and I have worn shoes with heels. Modest heels to be sure – I’ve never been a six-inch stiletto girl – but heels none the less.

This has made a huge difference. Not only have my muscles strengthened, but something else has changed. I stand taller, obviously, but also straighter. My posture is better. I feel smarter and, because of this, I’ve changed the day-to-day clothes I wear. I’ve discarded my slopping-around-the-house trousers and wear the clothes I usually where when I am going out.

It was Alec Guinness, I think, who said he built a character from the shoes up. He’s absolutely right. In my heels I feel more like a businesswoman and, consequently, I instinctively pull back my shoulders and, believe it or not, start planning my day in a more organised fashion.

If this is what happens with me, then maybe it’s the same for the characters in my stories. I don’t think I’ve often described the kind of shoes any of them wear, but if you asked me, I could tell you exactly what was on their feet.
Usually, I start building the character from the inside with his/her emotions, feelings and thoughts, and possibly a physical element like freckles or wild hair. The shoes will follow, but only in my head. I don’t often mention them. I wonder what kind of difference it would make if I began with the shoes.

Trainers tell me the wearer is sporty. Kitten heels suggests a certain feminine cheekiness, while stilettos offer glamour. Wearing indoor slippers in the street suggest a kind of sloppiness, court shoes hints at the middle class, and walking boots tell me the wearer is a country person.

Is this approach worth a try or would I be stereotyping? I have a female friend who is very high up in the professional world. She wears trainers to work. Smart trainers to be sure, expensive trainers I have no doubt, but trainers none the less. I wear trainers to be comfortable and not because I am sporty. A country friend wore her very-worn hiking boots in to a smart London shopping street to try on her bridesmaid dress and felt totally out of place simply walking down the road. She was the only one dressed for the country. Does this tell me something about her character or, if I wrote it, would I be pigeonholing her?

Maybe an actor can start his/her characterisation from the shoes up because the character is already fully formed. When I write, I am creating the character, allowing the plot to draw out different character facets until he/she is fully rounded; at least, I hope they are.

When I started this blog, I thought I might finish by deciding to change the way I start developing my characters, but I don’t think so. I will take more notice of their feet because it is always a good idea to challenge the way we write, but I don’t think I’ll be starting there.

In the meantime, think of me tomorrow in my heels. I wonder whether I will return to slippers and trainers the very next day, or perhaps I will stick with the new me.

I'll let you know.


Pippa Goodhart said...

I want pictures! Good luck with wearing wedding shoes, Val. I just kicked mine off and went barefoot once the dancing started at my daughter's wedding!

Anne Booth said...

Hope you have a lovely day. I might try wearing higher heels - writing hasn't been good for my posture. I will think about my characters' shoes too...

Penny Dolan said...

What perseverance! Have a wonderful day, Val, and take time to enjoy everything - even those shoes!