Friday, April 20, 2007

Blue, Green, or Turquoise?

My husband and I are writing partners (a whole nother series of blogs in itself) and we are currently revising our manuscript, taking into account comments from our agent. One of her concerns was that the heroine had inconsistent eye-color.
"What is she talking about?" I asked. "Our heroine's eyes don't change color! I read a novel once where the heroine's eyes changed from brown to blue partway through and it really bothered me. We would never do something like that."
He laughed and pointed to the e-mail from our agent. "She says that sometimes we describe the eyes as sea-green and sometimes as turquoise."
I set my hands on my hips. "So? That's the same thing."

Then it hit me. I grew up in New Mexico where turquoise jewelry is a mandatory part of every wardrobe. There, the most authentic and lovely pieces are not treated to maintain their color and so change as they are worn and exposed to air, to sun, to touch. They deepen in hue, they depart from a uniform sky-blue to a shifting palette of greens and blues. Like the sea. That is turquoise.

Our agent's office is on 5th Avenue in New York. She doesn't carry the memory of sun-browned Navajo women sitting on the sidewalk beside their jewelry-strewn blankets, surrounded by silver and gemstones in every hue of the sea.

As I ran a search-and-replace for the word "turquoise" I had to smile. It was another beautiful reminder that a story is a shared dream. Both the writer and reader bring their own history to the page. Their experiences can cast a hundred shades of meaning onto a single word, coloring it with all the hues of polished turquoise.


Aunty Cindy said...

Hey Anthea!
Thanx for the reminder that every reader and every writer brings his or her own interpretation to every word.

Also, turquiose is my birthstone and one of the things I've always loved most about it is the many unique and beautiful variations in color.

Anna Campbell said...

Anthea, love the photo of you at work. Interesting about what you say about everyone bringing their own pictures to a story. I think you're right - I know as an Australian, my idea of a hot summer day is different to an English person's hot summer day. Actually, I think I like their picture better!

Suzanne Welsh said...

LOL. Try a hot summer day in Dallas, Anna! If you complain about it here, people say, "Yes, but it's a dry heat." Like 104 isn't hot if it's dry?

Anthea, I have no problem with a character whose eye color changes. My eyes are a green hazel. And depending on the weather, my mood or the color of clothing I'm wearing they can appear anywhere along the deep green to medium brown. So this is the story I'd bring to your book.

And by the way, I always thought turquoise was a sea green color.


Caren Crane said...

I had to laugh at this! Like Suz, my eyes are a greenish-hazel, but they morph from greenish-gray to olive green to amber-green. If I had read your work, Anthea, I would assume that the turquoise was the greenish turquoise I love so much! I have some gorgeous old turquoise my mother's aunt, who lived in Albequerque, gave her in the '70s. All more green than blue these days.

Point being, when you are writing from the framework of your experiences, there is no way to predict what experiences others will bring when they read it. This is like the conversation that had been tossed around about Anna's book "Claiming the Courtesan". There are people who read it and, because of their experiences, find the conflict between the hero and heroine in the bedroom a turn-off. Having no such experiences in my life, I find it compelling and true to life. Wanting someone against your will and better judgment is something I could write volumes about!

"Fix" the eye color if you must, Anthea, but know that when I get to read your book, I will know her eyes are really turquoise. Ha!