Color Show


While researching sight in horses, I learned that horses can’t distinguish as many colors as humans can. The human retina has three cone photoreceptors while the equine retina has two (dichromatic vision).

Horse SightHorse-Eye

One of the articles I read is “Vision in horses: More than meets the eye” by Neil Clarkson for The following line from the article made me sit up and take notice:

The research showed that horses, with their dichromatic vision, cannot distinguish red.

love-red-colorHumans with protanomalous (red-weak) vision have the same issue. And since red is my favorite color, well, you can see why I took notice, especially since the color red led me to research the topic in the first place. While writing a story with shape-shifters, I wanted to know which colors a teen in his animal form (horse) could distinguish. Could he distinguish the color of blood on snow?

I guess it’s up to me whether or not he retains his trichromatic color vision or switches over to dichromatic while a horse. (This is a fantasy book after all.) Since I wound up dumping the snow in the scene, the color aspect became moot anyway. But it caused me to think of how enriched my own world is due to having trichromatic color vision. Since I love bright colors (note the nail polish in the first photo), I have to fight the temptation to make every person, place, or thing I write about brightly colored. But I love using colors as symbols to show the emotional landscape of a character or to show mood in general.

Color choice can be very important when you’re using an objective correlative. If you’re wondering what an objective correlative is, here’s a handy definition from

Something (as a situation or chain of events) that symbolizes or objectifies a particular emotion and that may be used in creative writing to evoke a desired emotional response in the reader.

A great post on objective correlatives with a helpful (and color-filled) example can be found here at Ingrid’s Notes. I can wait while you jet over there. I’ve got coffee to drink anyway.

You’re back? Good. Moving on, I also love to use color in an ironic way; for example, a depressed character who has the most colorful hair or wears the most colorful clothing (or both).

Color is one of the reasons why I love superhero ensemble shows or movies—all of those colorful costumes. Yet some of the most interesting heroes are the ones in basic black (or “very, very dark gray”; if you’ve seen The Lego Movie, you probably recognize that line). Here are some of those heroes:

Black-Panther-marvel-comics-4005356-1024-707lego batman

Black Panther (in front) and Lego Batman


Black Widow and Hawkeye

(Still wondering about the “dark gray” line? Watch this video.)

How do you use color in your stories? What, if anything, have you admired about another author’s use of color?


Hello Kitty and Jordie wanted to be part of the color photo shoot, since they’re colorful as well. However, if this post were a magazine, this photo would be one of the alternate covers.

By the way, I mentioned in another post that I was going to make myself a puppy hat. Mission accomplished. And yes, I wear it proudly.


Horse eye from Color wheels (which had the same photos from the Horsetalk article). Red wallpaper from Batman from Jeremy Renner from Hawkeye from Black Widow from Black Panther from fanpop.

Managing Misfits

RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEERThe other day I was thinking about a scene in the holiday classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Yes, I occasionally have odd thoughts like that, despite the season. If you’re not familiar with this Christmas special, go here. (I’m not the only person thinking of Christmas in July. Many stores start selling Christmas decorations in July.) As a red-nosed reindeer, Rudolph has always felt like a misfit. So when he travels to the island of misfit toys with his friends and fellow misfits (like an elf who would rather be a dentist than make toys—see elf above), they feel right at home.


Some of the misfit toys

When I was a kid watching this show, that scene was always poignant to me, especially when the doll (above) later starts crying because she’s unwanted. Also the toys sing a sad song. If you have few minutes, check it out below. Maybe like me, you’ll want to move to the island to take care of the toys.

I can understand a kid’s reticence to play with a train with square wheels or a water pistol that only squirts jelly. But I never understood what was wrong with the doll. She seemed okay to me—not at all a mistfit. I remember asking my older brother what he thought was wrong with the doll. I think I remember him shrugging and giving me a “Who cares?” look, but I wanted to understand her pain! Perhaps beneath the surface, she had enough angst to fill a young adult novel. But her issues remained hidden.

At first I wondered why the scene went through my mind recently. But now I know: because I’m having trouble conveying my characters’ emotions in a way that satisfies a reader. With some characters, I’ve barely scratched the surface of their psyches. Yet I expect readers to care based on scant visuals like a tear rolling down a character’s face (like the doll). But readers, like my beta readers, aren’t fooled by cosmetic things like that. They don’t want see my character’s tears if they’re not ready to shed their own at the character’s plight.

unikittyPlumbing the depths of a character’s emotions is very difficult for me, perhaps because I’m so good at hiding my own emotions or blocking emotional trauma. If I don’t want to feel it, I block it. That’s why I resonate with what Princess Unikitty suggested in The Lego Movie. In the quote below, she’s talking about ideas, but just substitute negative emotions, and you’ll understand where my head is at sometimes:

Any idea is a good idea except the non-happy ones. Those we push down deep inside where you’ll never, ever, ever, EVER find them!

But negative emotions have a way of coming out. And they need to come out in healthy ways of course, according to psychologists. But for characters in books, the emotions need to be shown, rather than told, so that readers connect with their lives.

We are our characters’ pipeline to pain. To use a cliché, our pain is their gain. Characters are believable if they have a bit of our interior life. If they’re misfits (some of my characters are), we need to show that by harkening back to our island of misfits experiences. Nobody wants to feel pain. But if we want to go beyond the teary doll syndrome (see the second paragraph if you’re not sure what I mean), we have to feel it, then show it in a believable way. And by we I really mean me: the Queen of Blocking.

Are any of your characters misfits? How do you show it?

Rudolph image from Misfit toys image from Princess Unikitty from

When You Don’t Know What to Do, Eat?

www.stuffkit.comWhere do you feel stress? Some say they feel stress in their stomach or neck. I feel it in my desire to scarf down chocolate. Whoa, now, you might be saying. There’s nothing wrong with scarfing down chocolate. I know that, and of course you know that. But if I’m working on a tricky scene in my novel and a thought like, I don’t know what to do to beef up the emotion here, crosses my mind, why is my first thought afterward, So I should get some cookies or better still, some chocolate cookies?

Sigh. I know why. . . . Okay. I admit it. I am a stress eater.

Say it with me: “Hi, L. Marie,” as if we were in a 12-step group. And step 1 is admitting one’s powerlessness to overcome the problem. But that’s after admitting one has a problem in the first place. But the issue became obvious as I thought about my tricky scene and an impending curriculum deadline, plus the fact that this project doesn’t quite cover all the bills. My head began to pound and my thoughts turned to food.

At other times, my thoughts have turned to videogames like Tetris Blitz or Plants vs. Zombies—anything to take my mind off the issues still very much in existence.


In college and my young adult years, drinking and hanging out with the wrong men were the crutches I sometimes relied upon when stressed. Ha! Like those worked. As Eddie Murphy, who played Buckwheat on Saturday Night Live, once sang, I was “wookin’ pa nub [and stress relief] in all da wrong places.” (If that reference totally confuses you, go here.)

Speaking of 12-step groups, here are the first four steps ala Wikipedia:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (or food or videogames or our own failures)—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Wondering why I only included four? The hard work of number 4 is my usual stopping place. If I take a “fearless moral inventory,” I realize that fear of inadequacy is something I’ve battled for years. So when I don’t know what to do rears its ugly head, I go for what I know to do.


And the problem of not knowing what to do is still there, still waiting to be dealt with.

I have to again mention The Lego Movie, though my last two posts have done so. (There is so much truth in this movie.) I can’t help thinking of something Emmet Brickowoski, the main character, says at a crucial moment: “I don’t know what I’m doing.” But he does what needs to be done, despite the fact that he feels inadequate.


Emmet Brickowoski

And that’s what I’m trying to do: what needs to be done. I feel better just admitting that I often feel inadequate. Yet, I still have to get things done. This brings to mind another scene, one from The Fellowship of the Ring, when Gandalf wasn’t sure which direction to take in the mines of Moria (scene 34 here). He sat for a bit, mulling over the problem, until the solution came to him.


Gandalf in Moria

I need to give myself permission to sit and mull over matters, instead of immediately turning to substitutes like food or videogames. And taking inventory is part of the mulling process.

Thanks for listening! Maybe I can do the same for you someday.

Chocolate from Tetris Blitz image from Emmet from Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf from

Toy Story

After watching The Lego Movie for the third time recently (bet you thought the post title referred to Pixar’s Toy Story, didn’t you?), I watched the behind-the-scenes documentaries. When someone mentioned that the directors (Phil Lord and Chris Miller) are kids at heart, I couldn’t help relating to the notion of being a kid at heart. This led me to take inventory of the games and toys I have at home. Pardon me while I indulge. I’ll totally understand if you run away to seek more grown-up pursuits. I’ll let you know when it’s safe to return. Look for the bold text.

        Phil_Lord_by_Gage_Skidmore Chris_Miller_by_Gage_Skidmore

Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Um, this is not the signal to return.)

I acquired this tiger at a Girl Scout camp when I was 11. Believe it or not, this is not my oldest toy. But I didn’t feel like digging around in my closet for anything older. Say hi. He won’t bite.


I have a lot of Nintendo DS games, for example:


The Sam and Frodo minifigs below were party favors. I’m not sure where Sam’s hair is.


And I’ve got this pair, which totally inspires me, since I’m a fan of knights and of the hero’s journey.


I also have a Scaredy Squirrel hand puppet (a character from books by Mélanie Watt), but I wrote a post on it before.

Okay. It’s safe to return from your grown-up pursuits.

Some might look at the above collection and think, Oh man, you need to grow up, especially if they have strong opinions about what adults should or shouldn’t do. I’m tempted to put a link here to an article that has many people outraged since it disparaged some popular young adult novels adults should be ashamed to read (or so we’re told), but I don’t want to give more publicity to that article or to the author of it. I offer no apology for having this stuff, nor am I ashamed of having it. After all, I mainly write for kids and teens. But I don’t have this stuff in the hopes of getting into the mindset of a kid. I have this stuff, because I never put away a sense of childlike wonder. I hope I never do.

But don’t think that a sense of wonder is only appropriate for books for kids. If you’re writing for adults, your sense of wonder needs to be engaged also, in order to keep a reader hooked.

Now, I need you to think back to when you were a kid. Or, try to remember the last conversation you had with a kid. Maybe he or she asked you “Why?” or “What’s that?” a 100 times in the same conversation. And you had to explain everything to the nth degree. Kids are curious. They wonder about everything.

Guess what. Readers are curious too. They especially wonder about the details you might have forgotten to add. My beta readers always challenge me in that department. “Why does she do that?” “How did he get that ability?” “Why are they like that?” They ask good questions, because they’re curious. They remind me to flesh out my characters and provide a fuller back story for them. They also challenge me to keep asking myself questions about everything as I revise, to make sure I cover all the bases. Even if I don’t mention certain facts in the book, I need to be curious enough about my characters to explore all of the “whys” and “whats” of their lives. To use an analogy from The Lego Movie, I’m hope that the feedback I’ve received, plus my own sense of wonder, will work toward my becoming a “master builder”someone who can fit all of the pieces of a story together to make a pleasing whole.


This is not the pleasing whole to which I refer.

What’s your favorite toy? How does it inspire you? How has your sense of wonder aided you recently?

Phil Lord and Chris Miller photos from Wikipedia.

The Gift You Can Give

Recently, my good friend Pamela, a fellow blogger, sent this to me, which caused me great delight.


If you’ve never read my blog before, you’re probably shrugging now and wondering (a) why yarn—and various textures of yarn at that—were sent to me and (b) why you should care. What does this have to do with your life as the post title implies? Let me address (b) first. Far be it for me to demand that you care. But perhaps if you knew what this gift means to me, and how you could do the same for someone, even without spending money, you might care. So, I will now address (a).

The Power to Create
I knit and crochet—mostly crochet. My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was a kid. I picked up knitting by looking at a how-to-knit book when I was 11. I love working with my hands—taking yarn and needles and making something out of them. I love flowers and other plants, but I manage to kill them. So for someone like me, the textile arts are the next best thing. After all, you can’t murder a flower made of yarn. That’s why I love anything that inspires me to create: yarn, a journal with blank pages, felt, pens, pencils, and markers. (Um, yes, I also write on the computer.) They remind me that I have the power to create.


Believe it or not, this “poodle” is a flower.


The same flower, only with less fuzzy yarn

The Power of Implied Competence
The gift of yarn is meaningful because of the implied competence factor. My friend believed I had the ability to make something beautiful from it. She didn’t send a craft book with it, telling me how to improve or announcing that others are more competent at needlework than me. She just sent the yarn.

By now you’re wondering what this has to do with you. Here’s the punch line you’ve been waiting for: you can use your words to stimulate the power to create in someone or to remind that person of the power of implied competence. Just by telling someone, “Your story (or blog post) meant so much to me,” “I appreciated your efforts the other day,” or “You can do this” can work wonders.

A paradigm shift might be necessary for those of us with a tendency to criticize first and admire second. 🙂 While constructive criticism can be a good tool, it doesn’t have to be the first tool we take out of the box.

If you’re a parent with young children, you can encourage their creativity by reading to them (or letting them read to you), drawing or painting with them, or working with them on a building project with Legos® (and that’s the only time I’m adding that registered trademark symbol). Give them the wings to fly. The great thing about Legos is that they provide the power to create and imply competence. Anything a kid (or you) makes is awesome. For inspiration, check out this Lego event post by another good friend and fellow blogger, Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Or, watch The Lego Movie (2014) with your kids. Creativity is a theme of the movie. (“Everything is awesome!”) 


Maybe the person whose creativity needs to be encouraged is you. We all know about the inner critic—the discouraging voice that tells us we suck or that we’ll never finish what we’re working on. Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves that we have the power to create and that we’re more than competent at it.

Well, I’ve got a gift box full of lovely yarn and a cup of coffee at my elbow. I think I’ll go make somethin’.