poetry and prose about place

writing a novel – wearing red shoes

with 10 comments


So the poet has decided to write a novel…


Title: unknown

Working Title: unknown

Setting: an abandoned church (in part)

Characters: main character a writer (not a very successful writer) who spends a lot of time at some other creative endeavor, loves to wear red shoes

Plot: unknown


Almost five years ago, I went shoe-shopping in Halifax.  This sounds OK until you realise I have only been shopping for shoes about eight times in my adult life (I’m 58).  I buy shoes to last – sensible, good leather, well stitched, usually Clarks but occasionally Naots.  I was started on this path by my Aunt who said I should only ever wear the most comfortable shoes available.  She often brought me a pair of Clarks after one of her visits to England.

Since those days, I only wear sensible, very comfortable shoes.  I also wear one pair of shoes for everything.  Since I retired in May, I have been wearing sneakers most often, but my leather shoes go with me to church, work, university classes, writing workshops, botany excursions, walks on the beach, everywhere.  Mud or hardwood floors, it’s all the same.  Friends have made fun of me for overwearing and outwearing my shoes.

At the shopping trip in Halifax, I bought a pair of sensible Naots and these have been my everyday shoes ever since.  But that day, I also fell in love with a pair of red leather Clarks.  They were a little tight, but I thought, they’ll stretch.  Five years later, they havn’t stretched because I’ve only worn them about three times.  They are too small.  My husband says I was a fool to buy a pair of shoes too small, even if they were a beautiful red.

So, if I can’t wear my beautiful red shoes, my main character in my book will wear them instead.

Red shoes.  A use of symbolism to support an underlying theme.  In the The Wizard of Oz, the 1939 film, Dorothy wore ‘ruby slippers’ to get back home, where she desperately wanted to be.  In the book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, 1900, Dorothy actually wore silver shoes!

the passage in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz where Dorothy gets her silver shoes

In Hans Christian Andersen’s rather macabre fairy tale The Red Shoes, an enchanted pair of red shoes causes a girl to dance to her doom.  Early in the fairy tale, she gets in trouble for obsessing over her red shoes while wearing them in church.  There is also a 1948 film, The Red Shoes, based on the fairy tale, about a ballet dancer who is torn between wanting to be a ballet dancer and wanting to be with her lover.

two books of fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen

In my novel, my main character will want something desperately (not to get to Kansas, or to dance, or to be a dancer, but something important to her).  Her red shoes are a symbol of her willingness to face all sorts of consequences to achieve her goal.


Copyright   Jane Tims   2012

10 Responses

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  1. Hi Jane!! I’ve never commented before, but I came across your post and it sounded really interesting! I love your idea for the red shoes. They look really neat, by the way. It seems like the Red Shoes fairy tale, but with a switched meaning. Rather than the shoes foreshadowing doom, they’re a symbol for hope and ambition.
    By the way, I absolutely love the illustrations in your Wizard of Oz book! They’re so adorable!! Who illustrated your copy, if you don’t mind my asking?



    January 16, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    • Hi Henry. Welcome to my site. Thanks for your comment on the red shoes. They reappear in the novel several times. The Wizard of Oz book is fairly old (J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd. New York, 1965). The illustrator is listed as BIRO. No other information is given. There are four colour plates and many line drawings in the text. Jane


      jane tims

      January 17, 2013 at 9:48 am

  2. Hi Jane, I echo the lady above, it is really fun to read about how you are developing your ideas for your novel. I recently (last winter!) re-read Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ wonderful book Women Who Run with Wolves, and one of the stories she re-tells and then explains from a psychological perspective, is The Red Shoes. It is a truly fascinating read. I agree about the fascination of red shoes, no matter how one imagines them to look, it is a kind of deep soul symbol for women, I think. Good luck with the rest of your research and planning for the novel….. it is brave and exciting for you! SB



    November 26, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    • Hi. I have read Women Who Run with Wolves and I forgot about her Red Shoes story. Thanks for the reminder. Jane


      jane tims

      November 26, 2012 at 9:23 pm

  3. I agree with Carol above that you have a great way of involving your readers in your writing.

    I also love wearing red shoes. I have to stand all day at work so it’s important that I wear well-made leather shoes. I won’t wear shoes made in China – thankfully it’s still possible to find shoes made in Europe.

    btw what size are your red shoes? I’m a size 8…



    November 26, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    • Hi Rosie. My shoes are size 14 (a lie, but I love my red shoes, even if they don’t fit!!!) jane


      jane tims

      November 26, 2012 at 9:19 pm

  4. Love the idea, Jane. If it’s any consolation, I have been foolish enough to buy a pair of shoes, based on color, that were too small in the hopes that they would stretch. I do enjoy colorful shoes. 🙂



    November 26, 2012 at 9:21 am

  5. I am fascinated by your entries about your developing novel. You have such a great way of involving readers in whatever you write. This is an intriguing piece about red shoes and all that they evoke. Who doesn’t love red shoes anyway?


    Carol Steel

    November 26, 2012 at 7:33 am

    • Hi Carol. Thanks for the comments. I think I am enjoying the blog part of the writing more than writing the novel! Jane


      jane tims

      November 26, 2012 at 10:09 am

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