The Trickiness of your Own Eyeballs

Do you try these sort of illusions when you find them? I really like how our own senses can trick us in so many unique and weird ways. If you have other links like this add them to comments. Share and share alike.

Look at the picture below, and stare at the little white point on the nose of the woman for about 15 seconds. Then look at the white square. Did you just see a woman appear? This is what we call the opponent process. It’s a combination of different wavelengths that makes us perceive color. The wavelengths are processed in our brain. Special neurons that are present in the lateral geniculate nucleus react to different pairs of colors. Green is paired with red, yellow is paired with blue and white is paired with black. The picture of the girl represents only one color of a pair. So in the afterimage you’ll see the opposite paired color.

Source: Niume | Posts

Ode to a Season

Which is your favourite season? Why is it your favourite?

Write about your favourite season and how it appeals to each of your five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and hearing.

As a bonus challenge, can you turn it into a haiku?


Bright, soft, white glitter

ice cold, wet lace in the sky

fresh falling snowflakes

Describing Sounds to the Deaf

How would you describe a sound to someone born deaf?

Think about explaining how your alarm clock sounds. How does a cat’s meow sound? What sound does your keyboard make when you type? Simple things to people who have heard sounds before.

What can you hear right now? What little sounds are going on around you, unnoticed?

Pick one sound in particular. Describe that sound for someone who has never heard anything.

It helps to consider your other senses:

Frying bacon sounds like ants running up your arm. Little sizzles and tingles the odd pop and snap as they tickle your skin.

Turning a page in a book sounds like brushing your hair. Feeling the brush move through your hair softly, smoothly.

Try it!


Losing your Sense of Self?

bwpollThis is an old poll I created when I used to write for a network called BackWash. Still a good question to think about.

If you had to give up or lose one of your senses, including common sense and the possibility of a sixth sense or the other standard: hearing, smell, taste, sight or touch, which would you pick?

I think the idea of losing our senses haunts us all our lives. We see someone who can’t see or hear and we think about how it must be to live without that.

Then we get older and another fear is losing our mind, our ability to think and do things for ourselves.

Animals don’t have a sense of self, scientists say. It’s a test they try on animals – putting them in front of a mirror to see if they can understand they are looking at a reflection of themselves. I’ve seen cats go crazy, hissing and pouncing, trying to threaten (or feeling threatened) by what they see as a strange cat who hisses right back at them. Pretty scary if you don’t understand the concept of a reflection. But, they can do the same with the image of a cat on a box too.

I don’t know if not having the knowledge of reflections and photography or graphic arts should leave us to assume these animals don’t have that sense of self.

How could you prove an animal does have a sense of self? How do you know you have a sense of your own self? Do you even understand the idea of what having a sense of self is? Maybe that is the sense (not on my original list) which you might give up. How different would you be without it?

How to Start a Fresh Blog Post When You’re Stuck

Everyone hits a blank now and then. Don’t get impatient with yourself. Take a quick break, make yourself another coffee, start a load of laundry or walk around the block once or twice. Then come back and use one of these to give your post a fresh start:

  • Use a statistic you find somewhere. Look for a surprising statistic, something unexpected or controversial.
  • Share something from your personal experience. Work on your storytelling.
  • Ask a question. The best questions are those which are sincere, something you really do want to know.
  • Write a description. Don’t forget all the 6 senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. Share your vision.
  • Write a critique or review of something. Be honest and fair.
  • Rant about something. Throw your passion into it.
  • Use a metaphor, an analogy or a simile – remember your high school English classes and get clever.


Building the Character

Building the Character – Reprinted from the WordCraft newsletter on the BackWash site.

One of the keys to building a living, breathing character lies in the details. We are constantly reminded to use all our senses. Sometimes, we need to step back and build the back story for some of the main characters using all those senses. If we look at the stories we like to read, we will also find that all of these details are not revealed to us at one time.

A couple of lessons I used with my students are valuable for all of us to revisit once in a while:

1. Items from a wallet or purse give your character dimension. Personal items in a wallet or purse provide detectives with insights into a person. Besides the standard items of driver’s license and cash, items such as credit cards, business cards, lighters, notes, pictures or the lack of them all provide clues. They can also trigger a memory for your character.

2. Show your character dressing. What rituals are there in the daily robing? If you remember Lee Marvin in the 1965 movie Cat Ballou there is an incredible scene in which we see the transformation of Kid Shelleen from the drunk who cannot hit either side of the barn to the steel-eyed gunfighter. This is all accomplished in a dressing ritual. Have your character dress for a special event. Take time and space to use all senses. You might even end with a scene that you wish to include in your story.

3. Take time to show where and how your character lives. What books, magazines or items are scattered around the apartment or house? Is the room neat and tidy, like that of Adrienne Monk, or cluttered and messed up like the room of a teenager?

Once you have built a back story for your character, you will have a better feel for how and why s/he will act in certain ways in the story you are writing.

Happy December!

December is my favourite month. It’s not just because Christmas is this month. If anything I can think of several things (like my birthday now that I’m 40+) that could take away the luster of December, if I let them. There is just something about the month of December, the first snowfall (even though it started in November this year, if you want to get technical). I like the freshness of December. It’s the first month that feels like winter. It gives us a cold snap to sharpen our senses. December brings all the traditions like building a snowman, drinking hot chocolate and thinking about Christmas holidays and birthday getaways (if you happen to be born this month).

What do you like, or not like, about December?

Happy New Month!

Another Place in Time and Space

Think of an odd character, one from your own creation or a character you have read or seen somewhere else. Write about this character’s favourite place in the world. A place the character has really been and desires to go back to again. Describe the place from the point of view of this character/ person, use all the senses: smell, touch, taste, sights and sounds. What is the favourite memory they have and what do they most look forward to seeing or doing when they return to this place? When were they last at this  place? Who (if anyone) was with them?

Where Are You?

You smell fish, not fresh fish. When you move your feet you can hear the trickle of water and you can feel cold water up to your ankles. If you reach out you touch something rough and cold. There is no air blowing on you yet it’s moving a little, doesn’t seem to be stagnant. You can’t see anything cause you still haven’t been able to get the blindfold, or whatever is over your head, off.

Where are you? What comes to mind based on what you know from your available senses? (If you find something you want to taste, go ahead).

A Face in the Crowd

You’re at a crowded event. Maybe a football game, a rock concert or a mega shopping mall at Christmas time, pick one of those and describe the noise, the faces lost in a crowd, how it feels to be one small face in such a huge crowd, describe the smells, too. How many of the five senses can you work into a one paragraph description? Now, the real challenge, how much can you pack into just one sentence, not a run on sentence.