There are certain things you are born with, certain other things you develop and still further attributes that you have to work at or fix.
For instance, I’ve always had really narrow feet. When I was a child this meant trailing from shoe shop to shoe shop in search of foot wear that didn’t necessitate being tied on with string. For a young child this was always a mission that entailed oceans of crashing boredom as well as the sometimes overtly stated contention that I was some sort of freak. Back in the 1960s shopkeepers rarely held back when it came to pointing out their customers deficiencies.
At the end of this process I’d usually get something. Like most kids shoes back then what I was bought was always durable, waterproof and about as attractive as a rats arse. In addition and because I had freaky feet my shoes were always inordinately narrow as well! Oh deep joy!
As I grew into adulthood the freaky feet became less of an embarrassment although they were still never easy to accommodate in shoe shops. Then about fifteen years ago, suddenly my feet became all the rage. A shoe designer called Jimmy Choo began to get very popular amongst the glitterati. His shoes were elegant, high heeled, gorgeous, wildly expensive and very, very narrow. Jimmy, apparently, had absolutely no interest in accommodating wider fittings and so having narrow feet, amongst ‘celebs’ suddenly became the fashionistas Holy Grail.
Every anorexic model, every reality show ‘star’ as well as every royal woman under fifty wanted Jimmy Choos. But few could cram their feet into them and there were rumours that Victoria Beckham had actually had her feet surgically narrowed in order to wedge them into the Jimmy’s of her choice. I had a feeling my freaky feet would have no problem and so one day, whilst scruffing around the West End of London I had a go.
I wish I’d had an audience. I was in a department store filled to the rafters with such massive amounts of self absorption, no one clocked the middle aged trampy person slipping, with room to spare, into a pair of Jimmy’s that cost more than most people’s mortgages. I couldn’t even think about buying them of course, but I did parade about in them for a bit. Such gorgeousness did look odd when teamed with a full length overcoat covered in Persian cat hair, but it made me laugh and so it was well worth the effort. For a moment there, I became a sort of middle aged Cinderella. The ugly sisters who couldn’t get into the glass slippers of Prince Jimmy Choo were of course, actually very beautiful but I was still the absolute winner – on the shoe front.
How does this relate to the writing of genre fiction in any way I hear you ask? Well, it’s an example of the diamond in the rough, what I call the saving grace. When building up a character one has to give him or her as many facets, quirks and traits as a ‘real’ person might have. That way they will be believable. Few people living are ‘all one thing’. Others may describe them as ‘ugly’, ‘beautiful’, ‘handsome’, ‘boring’ etc., but rarely is anyone completely ‘ugly’, ‘beautiful’ etc., etc. Sometimes it’s just one aspect alone that either raises up or mars their looks or their personality but it is always something significant, if not for others, for them.
Finally, time can play a part here too. When I was a kid, thin feet were frowned upon and few shops held more than just a very limited selection of styles designed for narrow feet. Now, with the coming of Jimmy Choo and his gorgeous little things, all designers have narrow shoes amongst their products and my feet are the height of fashion. Now, after all these years, I have my very own saving grace.