Friday, May 14, 2010

The Colors of Fiction

Last fall my daughter decided she wanted blue hair. Not blue all over, but one thick streak of bright, electric blue. I said, "Cool." (to my husband's surprise) and set about finding an inexpensive way to add this startling hue to my child's repertoire of individuality props and fashionista experimentation tools.

In our small town it isn't considered "normal" for a tween girl--or anyone, for that matter--to have blue hair; even a streak. But, I reasoned, now is the time. Seventh grade. And why not? Someday she's going to have to go out and get a job and I don't want her having the lifelong regret of, "Oh, man. I wish I'd had the guts to have funky hair when I had the chance!"

Though, as regrets go, I suppose that isn't too heavy a burden to bear.

Are you gasping at my parenting skills? Well, I guess you don't know me very well, then. You see, for two years my own stylist has been routinely talking me out of putting a few cherry-red streaks in my hair. I really, really want a couple--just a couple mind you--of thin, cherry red streaks. But, alas, I have listened and stayed with my "normal" (aka: crazy striped) three-color dye job of natural human colors (though not mine--that color remains unknown.) And then? I lost the chance. I took a job in a place with a dress code. A dress code which includes a proviso for "no non-human hair color."


Around the same time, my daughter went out for cheerleading, which also had a proviso. Luckily, my research had discovered several options for azure hair coloring and Delaney had decided on using a blue pseudo-weave rather than permanent color. Removable and reusable, she kept it in a drawer during basketball season.

And me? Well, I have yet to purchase my own cherry red weave. I may, instead, be forced to live my secret, deep desires upon the page, creating a heroine with cherry red streaks in her hair. There's something within me that balks at the lack of commitment a removable streak implies. I mean, if I'm going crazy, I'm going all the way, baby. No backing out. All or nothing.

So I'm stuck with nothing.

For now.

But that's just me. Good thing my daughter has a good head on her shoulders.

It's amazing what a little color can do to create atmosphere and change a person's outlook--even in fiction. In Hard Times, Charles Dickens writes page after page of gray imagery, so utterly dull in its exceptionally long description that the reader's skin begins to take on a sickly pall. (Can you tell how much I loved that book? Can you tell how much sarcasm and loathing have colored that last remark?) But for all the bleakness a perpetually dark book can, well, perpetuate upon the reader's soul, I have also found that dark, cold imagery, when used skillfully, can speed the heart rate (like in Dean Koontz's No Fear) and send a chilly sense of expectation (like in one of my more recent reads, A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray.) But the skillful author knows how to juxtapose light and heat against these sensations, these black and gray-nesses, to keep the reader from following a character too far into despair. Bray does this exceptionally well. If you can handle a Gothic novel which touches upon mythology and a bit of the occult and remember that it is FICTION, I do recommend this title.

I'm now reading Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, an epic fantasy which combines history with Celtic legend and lore and quite vividly paints scene after scene with effusive color. I'm a bit ambivalent about this story line--I do not, as yet, feel vested in its outcome--but I am sticking with it. I'm not on the edge of my seat, but I am intrigued and have been drawn into the sights and scents of the forest by Marillier's exceptional setting descriptions--many of which rely on color and the play of light. I think I can learn something about the craft by sticking with this story and seeing where protagonist Sorcha will end up. And I am anxious to know with whom, though I already have my suspicions. I am, at heart, a romantic. I want her to rescue her brothers from the evil sorceress and find love along her silent journey. And I want to see it in color.

I'll let you know how it goes.

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