July 12, 2018 / 2 Comments

I Don’t See Color

            I know, I know.  Asking-for-trouble title on this one.  Please just stick with me, though, okay?  There’s a good reason for it.
            Which I shall explain with this shocking revelation and a quick story.
            When I was in seventh grade, I found out I was color blind.  This may seem like a weird thing for someone to “discover,” but it makes sense if you think about it.  I’m daltonic (or deuteranomalous if you want to get super-specific), which means I can see most colors, but I have trouble with reds and greens.  I just kind of learned by filling in the blanks. 
            For example, leaves, Sleestaks, and the Hulk were green.  Grass is the same color as leaves, therefore grass is also green. The Lizard is the same color as the Hulk, therefore the Lizard is also green.  I just matched things up with what I learned from books and comics and Sesame Street.
            In other words… I learned just like everyone else did.
          Of course, it never occurred to me that what I was seeing might not be what everyone else was seeing. Why would it?  My vision was perfectly normal.  Nothing made this more clear than several determined childhood attempts to manifest either X-ray vision or optic blasts.
            (and maybe teen attempts)
            (…okay, last week)
            Then one day I got to Science class and the teacher had a slide show set up.  It was a bunch of those pictures-hidden-in-colored-dots things (an Ishihara test, if you were so interested).  Like that one right down there.  And much to my surprise… I couldn’t see anything in them.  Almost two-thirds of them looked blank.  Just like that one down there.  I can’t see anything in it. No pictures or patterns or anything.  If you can, feel free to say something in the comments.
            Anyway, I had a low-level, seventh grade freak-out about all the important stuff—Will I still be able to get a drivers license?  Will I have to get glasses?  What girl will ever want to kiss me knowing I’m color blind?!
          Once that was done, I spent the next day or two re-examining my whole world.  What did Sleestaks really look like?  That “grass is always greener…” thing had always seemed stupid to me, but did it make sense to everyone else?
           And that’s when it suddenly hit me.  How did everyone else see the world?  What was I missing out on?  I mean red, white, and blue Captain America looks really good to me, but how much of that was being told for most of my life that red, white, and blue were complementary?  How did everyone else see those red stripes?  I couldn’t imagine a “new” color that could fill that slot.  Would most people be horrified at what I saw?
            I spent weeks pondering this.  What were other people seeing?  How were they experiencing the world?  If red was the color of anger… was their anger different than mine?  Their envy?  What would alternate-green envy be like?  I was honestly second-guessing everything (which, granted is what most of seventh grade is, but this was on top of the usual stuff).
            Once or thrice here I’ve talked about empathy.  Really simply, it’s the ability to understand what other people are going through.  If your friend has a hangover, goes through a bad breakup, or saves a bundle on car insurance with Geico, these are all experiences we can relate to, and we can apply how we felt to guess how they’re feeling.
            But really, empathy goes beyond that.  I still have both of my parents, so I didn’t know what it was like when one of my friends lost his.  But I could extrapolate from how I feel about my parents and from huge losses I have suffered.  Empathy’s being able to relate to people even when you haven’t directly experienced what they have.
            I’ve never had that ice-water in your spine moment what I realized I’m sitting in an office with a serial killer. I’m guessing most of you reading this haven’t, either. But our job is, quite literally, to convince people we have.
            Y’see, Timmy, I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say I can’t be a good writer if I don’t have empathy. If I can’t see the world through the eyes of different people—not how I think they see the world, mind you, but how they see it—I can’t have good characters.  And without good characters…
            Well, you know.
            Next week is… oh, holy crap, next week is San Diego ComicCon!  And I’m going to be there next Thursday, hosting a Writers Coffeehouse with Jonathan Maberry (he of Glimpse and V-Warsand the Joe Ledger books).  Plus I’ve got a couple of signings scattered through the day.  I’ll put up a schedule very soon.
            And next week, for the rest of you…
            Well, I’ll come up with something.
            Until then, go write.
August 17, 2012

No Coloreds Allowed!

            Well, that title got everyone’s attention real quick, didn’t it?

            Allow me to explain, then feel free to report me…
            When it comes to adjectives, one of the easiest bits of description to drop into writing is colors.  I can tell you I’m sitting here right now on a gray chair wearing a blue shirt and black shorts (there’s a major heat wave going on in Los Angeles right now) and my tan cat is trying to get my attention.
            Now when a lot of us hit that mid-phase in our growth-as-a-writer arc, we start using metaphors for everything.  My shirt isn’t blue, it’s sky-colored.  My shorts are the color of coal.  My cat, Charlie Baltimore, is linen-colored.  Some folks get comfortable at this point of the arc and they’re the ones who tend to use lots and lots of purple prose (color pun not intended, but it works so I’ll go with it).
            The catch, however, is when people develop the habit of describing everything as “colored.”  Even colors.  Which is wrong.
            I’ve seen some folks describe things as red colored, yellow colored, and blue colored.  That’s just silly.  And it’s excess words I could cut.
            Y’see, Timmy, colors are inherently “colored.”  If I tell you my shirt is blue, it’s understood that I mean “my shirt is the color blue.”  So I wouldn’t tell you “my shirt is the color blue colored.” 
            I should never use the word colored with colors.  I shouldn’t have blue-colored sky or green-colored grass.  They’re already colors—what else could they be?  Blue flavored sky?  Green textured grass?  Snip that word and have blue sky and green grass.
            I use coloredwhen I’m making descriptive comparisons.  A girl with strawberry-colored hair can wear a grass-colored dress, for example.  My zombies have chalk-colored eyes.  One draft of Ex-Patriotshad Stealth described as “shadow-colored.”
            Use the Find feature and search through your latest work for uses of the word colored.  Make sure it’s being used correctly.  Slash it if it isn’t.
            Next time I may be a bit cramped for time, so you’re either going to get a rant about time bombs or another screenwriter interview (if I’m really up against the wall).  But if I do, I’ll make sure it’s a fun one.  Or, at least, highly controversial. 
            Until then, go write.