A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about using the way your characters dress to convey their work, their hobbies, and their personality, and how that differs with age and locale. But you can also use a piece of personal style for deeper purposes.
In Chai Another Day, my fourth Spice Shop mystery, Pepper encounters a woman who always dresses in black and wears beautiful cinnabar pendants. Turns out the woman, Melissa Kwan, began buying them for good luck after her young son became ill. The boy’s illness, and its effects on the family, twist her judgment and lead her to attack another woman, who Melissa sees as the beneficiary of her own misfortunes. When Melissa later comes after Pepper, the cord breaks and the pendant slides across the floor, catching just enough light for Pepper to see it and identify her attacker. It’s a symbol of all Melissa had hoped for and all she’s lost, in one shiny red object. But it’s good luck for Pepper, who then knows how she can get the upper hand and hope to survive.
Pack the objects that matter to your characters with meaning, and we’ll all be able to identify with them.