Helpful Shadows

Mali and the balloon

So, this weekend, my husband thought it would be funny to clip a three-week-old birthday balloon to our toddler’s pants just because it would be funny. And it was. I mean, she had no clue how the balloon was following her, just that it was—and she loved it.

It was a little shadow, as it were. (See! Baby pictures fit the theme.)

Anyhow, we were going to take it off after a few minutes, but then we realized that it was actually a super helpful little shadow. The baby is constantly on the go (she’s like a shark—she can’t stop moving) and the balloon let us track her trail from room to room without the usual half-second heart attack we’d have before spotting her.

This lesson made me wonder: what kind of useful shadows do you have in your life? Or in your books? Or both?

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11 thoughts on “Helpful Shadows”

  1. Honestly, I’m coming up dry but I give this to you: my kids thought I was magical because I knew when they hadn’t brushed their teeth. (Before I asked, I go feel the toothbrushes to see if they were wet.) But, the best part is that when they lied and I knew (because I had checked their toothbrushes), I got their “tells” and the “tells” never change. One kid’s eyes got really big when she was trying to be sincere. The other kid would burst out laughing when you looked her in the eye. They’re in their 30s and they still have the same “tells”. Later, you will be glad I told you this.

  2. Shadow ideas. I’m one of the those writers/people whose mind is constantly spinning with ideas. Having a back log of plots and characters lurking in the shadows of my mind is one of the most helpful things to my writing because I can always find another way to go if something isn’t working.

  3. Keenan, so true. My kids are always astonished that I catch their lies. I haven’t bothered to tell them their giveaways because then I’d probably just have to learn another set.

    Useful shadows? Let me get another cup of caffeine, warm up and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

  4. Baby pics are always welcome! Your post brought a smile, so thanks for that. Useful shadows?? I used your balloon idea in one of my books (The Jigsaw Window), where my character was in a crowd and followed the balloon she saw bobbing above all the heads. Unfortunately, it led her astray…

  5. First, Sarah, highest marks for the balloon idea. it’s adorable.

    Useful shadows, oh so many for writers. Really, there are shadows of events that haunt and inspire they become the “what ifs” of fiction. What if she had gone to that party? What if he had stopped her from getting in that car? What if I had said I love you? What if I had said no? And then there are the useful shadows that allow nothing to be exactly as it seems. Two people walking hand in hand in the street, who knows that one of them is actually using the contact as control. Aspirational shadows, Mother Theresa, PD James (now there’s a duo), Daphne duMaurier, all cast large shadows that lead us to be the best we can be.

  6. I need three balloons. Genius idea!

    I keep wanting to take a picture of Silas’s shadow at bedtime. The curly cue on top of his head is really priceless.

    I have no idea for how to make a shadow useful today. Maybe after another cup of coffee.

  7. After some thought and caffeine, I have to say dreams are my shadows. I’ll often dream about some aspect of a story, whether a WIP or just a glimmer of an idea. If I dream more than 2 nights running, I know there is something there demanding my attention. I may not get any further than that scene or idea, but if I spend some time on it and write/outline, I often find the dream leaves me alone. And the result generally makes it into a story – at some point.

  8. Hahaha, glad to ask a tough question and give everyone a bit of Monday morning cuteness:) Mary, I think your idea of dreams as shadows is a fabulous one. I definitely think certain experiences shadow me in dreams.

    As for in writing, I think of well done prologues as shadows. If they’re done right (and many times they aren’t), they set up a theme for the whole book that follows around the reader.

  9. HUM, this is a hard topic. I like to think that I am the helpful shadow, lurking just out of sight to make sure that things go well and springing into action just in time to catch the antique owned by George Washington just as it teeters at the edge.

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