Building a Unicorn

Over the past year or so I’ve bought or been given unicorns by friends.

    

Just writing that statement makes me laugh because it sounds so ridiculous—or would have if you and I were talking on the phone and you did not see the above photos. It sounds like, “Yes, I own some unicorns. They’re parked out back.”

Lately, I’ve been crocheting a unicorn for a little girl’s unicorn-themed birthday party. The pattern was designed by ChiWei at OneDogWoof. You can find her blog here.

First, you crochet the head, then the ears, and the alicorn (what the horn was called way back when).

Next comes the body, which takes almost twice as long as the head, then the legs and hooves (both thankfully crocheted in one piece).

   

Lastly, you have to crochet the tail (made of multiple curlicues) and cut strands of yarn for the mane. I chose this yarn. A unicorn must have a rainbow tail and mane.

   

Once all of the pieces are crocheted, I have to build the unicorn—at least that’s what I think of the assembly process, which involves a lot of whip stitching to keep the pieces together.

It’s sort of like the process of writing a story with a unicorn as a character. Okay. I see that look. You’re thinking these processes are very different. But character building of any sort involves putting pieces together: characteristics of people you know, characteristics from your imagination; quirks of your character that affect relationships with other characters; dialects shaped by the setting; etc.

I have loved unicorns since I was a kid. I wrote a fairy tale about unicorns probably twenty years ago for my own amusement. But that was then and this is now. When I made the decision to include unicorns in a more recent novel, I did some research.

Maybe you wonder why I would bother. Aren’t unicorns pretty standard? Though they come from the mythology of many countries, they all seem to heal with the horn on their head and seem ethereal. Well, the thought of writing about a “typical” unicorn, one like cream floating on a breeze, offering a healing touch without saying or doing anything else, was not very inviting. I wanted to write about unicorns that had more personality.

I read books by Diana Peterfreund who has a killer unicorn series for young adults. Not killer in the slang sense of “That dress is killer,” but in the sense of “those unicorns kill people.” You can find details about it here.

I also read this series (photos below), which has more books than just the ones shown here. I love one snippy warrior unicorn character who demanded vows of service from people in exchange for assistance. So much for giving away free stuff like healing. I love a feisty unicorn.

   

Well, I’d better get back to getting the mane situated on this unicorn. It’s going to take awhile. (The unicorn might look small on the photo. But it is about 15 inches tall.)

What do you think of unicorns? Do you like to read stories about them? Are you indifferent to them? Please share your thoughts below.

Rampant book cover from Goodreads. Other photos by L. Marie.

Bodily Functions? I Got Nuthin’

Um, just so you know: this isn’t the start of a stand-up routine in which I trot out jokes I would have giggled over when I was in fifth grade. (And yes, I probably would laugh about them now. I won’t blame you for running from this post in disgust.) You see, the other day, I was in the middle of writing an email message to a friend when I came to the sudden realization that none of the characters in my current novel has eaten anything—not so much as a crust of bread. Trust me—they are not like me in that respect. One of the first questions out of my mouth whenever I talk to one of my sisters-in-law or my parents is, “What are you going to eat for dinner?”

My characters also are not dieting nor are they anorexic, robots, anorexic robots (hmm—that would make an interesting sci-fi novel), or vampires living on a liquid diet. So what gives? Picture me shrugging. Ironically, I love the scenes in the Harry Potter books and movies where the students gather in the great hall at Hogwarts Castle to tuck into a feast. I love all mention of food in The Lord of the Rings (um, except what orcs, Gollum, and Shelob eat). One of my favorite films is Babette’s Feast, which is all about food! Yet I have trouble writing scenes where characters eat or deal with other bodily functions—unlike two books in my possession.

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In The Naming, the first book of the Pellinor series for young adults by Alison Croggon, Maerad (the main character) undertakes a harrowing journey. I love those! They’re so . . . harrowing. Anyway, the author doesn’t shy away from a discussion of Maerad’s menstrual cramps. Croggon boldly goes where I have yet to go. In Shadowfell, a young adult fantasy novel by Juliet Marillier that I’m reading now, a hot guy actually helps the main character to answer nature’s call when she’s too weak from an illness to head to the privy on her own. While I’m not sure if the guy is the love interest (I’m guessing he will be, though he’s a mystery right now), nothing says “Be mine” like a hero who helps the heroine use a chamber pot.

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Part of my reticence is the fact that I have a difficult time working these “natural” moments into the narrative . . . uh . . . naturally. Silly me. I worry too much about how such moments will advance the plot. Okay. I hear you. Do they actually have to serve that purpose? But if every scene needs to count, I have to wonder.

Okay. Okay. Eating and answering nature’s call are both important (well, maybe flatulence isn’t). I totally get that. Maybe I can have one of my point-of-view characters overhear an important conversation while retreating behind a conveniently placed bush to um “see a man about a horse.”

No good, you say? Well, any advice for me? How do you work eating and other bodily functions in your narrative in a way that doesn’t seem forced?

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When your characters are out in nature, will they answer the call?

Book covers from Goodreads. Woods and river photo from Wikipedia.