Oct 8 2012

Where’s Waldo?

Melissa Crytzer Fry

I’ve always been struck by nature’s ability to conceal. So many things seem to blend into the other, edges softening and blurring, our eyes unsure if optical illusions are at play. In the desert, this concealment can be downright startling (Yep – I’m thinking rattlesnakes, so invisible their reptilian skin melts into the cocoa-colored earth).

Nature’s visual display of hide ’n seek is not unlike the Where’s Waldo books of the late ‘80s and ‘90s, with their illustrative ‘red herrings’ – other red-and-white striped objects masking the geeky cartoon character.

While my husband was working on an in-home construction project, I hid out in a small room of a local library, where I took this photo. Click to enlarge.

I thought it would be fun to send my readers on a “Where’s Waldo” of natural wonders – all based on images I’ve snapped over the years – of some pretty darn illusive subjects in the Sonoran Desert. (Trust me … I had more). In case you can’t see the camouflaged critters in these photos, answers are at the bottom of the post. Click photos to enlarge.

For Readers/Writers: Do you find that certain aspects of a story become invisible to you as you read? Without fail, I seem to lose track of a story’s timeline – or I simply fail to pay attention to how many days or moths have passed in every story I read. I also seem to lack the ability to remember the ages of young characters. Always. What about you? Does the physical setting of the books you’re reading just disappear? The physical descriptions of characters? Something else?

When you write, do you want certain things to be invisible – hidden under the surface of your words for the reader to unearth? What are they? What is the value of concealing them?

Answers: Imagine – on all these images – if you weren’t taking a microscopic look in the way I was: Pretty darn invisible, huh? Photographed from top to bottom: bullock’s oriole; baby desert tortoise; TWO white-tailed deer; a common fence lizard; a tree frog; TWO owlets; a crazy grasshopper, the likes of which I’ve never before seen and almost smooshed.


25 Responses to “Where’s Waldo?”

  • avatar Julia Munroe Martin Says:

    I absolutely loved the Where’s Waldo books! But still I missed two “Waldos” in your photos until I looked super closely: the fence lizard and one of the deer. I love nature’s camouflage, just incredible. When I read I lose track of my time and often of the story too, but the sure sign that I’m engrossed in the story is when I barely notice I’m reading or what the specific words are I’m reading and instead it’s almost like I’m watching the action inside my head. Almost like the whole book is camouflaged! What a great post and amazing photos!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    I LOVE that reading phenomenon of which you speak – being so engrossed, you’re IN the story, yourself!

    And, see – I was NOT a fan of the Waldo books because, I fear, I am too damn impatient.

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  • avatar Laurie Buchanan Says:

    Like Julia Munroe Martin, I too love nature’s incredible camouflage! If I’m reading a really good book – usually in the bathtub – I forget everything until the water gets cold and I need to refresh it with more hot water.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    How does one read in the bathtub without pages getting soggy? (In our current home, we have NO tub, and right now, I have to admit … you’ve inspired me to really WANT one. Relaxing in warm bubbles with a warm book… that sounds downright heavenly).

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  • avatar Cynthia Robertson Says:

    Wow, I really had to think about that question, Melissa. Sometimes the physical description of a character or characters will fade, but that’s usually because it’s unimportant to the story (mostly)and I’m more into reading what they are thinking and feeling.
    I used to enjoy the Where’s Waldo pictures. Your photos are fascinating, especially the one of the tortoise. I couldn’t help wondering how big (small?) he was. And the rocks in the background look deliberately laid, and the pattern is pretty, so I was wondering what that surface is.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    What a great point, Cynthia. Maybe that’s why I am also not good at remembering physical descriptions of characters – because I am so much more interested in their internal/emotional journeys.

    The tortoise is on a rock wall we had built to control erosion. Each of those stones is laid BY HAND! It’s called ripwrap. The tortoise was about the size of a cereal bowl.

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  • avatar Annie Neugebauer Says:

    What a cool idea for a post! Loved searching for the critters. And yes, I call that “editing blindness.” For me, it’s mostly details once revisions start changing things. Does she have that item with her at this point? Where’d she have it last, etc. A good beta will catch those things, though!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Oh… I love that you approached the question from the writer’s POV. Editing blindness — we all suffer from it, don’t we? Here’s to good betas! I hope your edits are coming along.

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  • avatar Nina Says:

    One thing I’d love to be invisible as I read is how people got where they’re going. We don’t need to see the car ride, plane ride etc. Just get us there!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    But sometimes those plane rides offer great opportunities for sequels/internalizations. 😉

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  • avatar Natalia Sylvester Says:

    What a fun (and beautiful) post, Melissa! I really enjoyed finding the critters in each picture; nature never ceases to amaze me!

    Now that you mention it, when I read, no matter how well the author has described a character, their face remains a blur in my mind, nearly invisible. I don’t know why that is…I suppose it’s because I put myself into their perspective, so I don’t see their faces (just as I don’t see mine as I look out into the world). But funny enough, I still find myself disappointed/excited when someone makes a book into a movie and gets the casting wrong or right. So even though I don’t have a clear picture in my mind as I read, I know what I seems true to the character once I see it.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    So glad you enjoyed, Natalia. I am the SAME way with ‘seeing’ characters in my mind as I read. I don’t really see them, but when I DO see them portrayed through actors, I quickly know what they are “not.” It’s that whole situation in the freelance world with some clients: They don’t know what they want until they see what they DON’T want. ha ha.

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  • avatar Shary Says:

    Great photos! I missed the second deer and owlet. 🙂 I always hope that I’ll be able to weave thematic material under the surface when I write. But when I read, I, too, get lost in the story. I may absorb themes and details, but I love the feeling of being in another world when I’m immersed in a book.

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    Melissa Reply:

    It is SO difficult isn’t it – wondering if you’re being too subtle or too obvious with that thematic weaving… I guess, as Annie says, it’s necessary to have good beta readers!

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  • avatar Janice Says:

    This was a fun, clever idea for a post, Melissa. I couldn’t find the second deer or the lizard. That grasshopper looks so cool — and huge!

    I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about physical setting until you asked. I think it depends on the story. I read a couple of ghost stories recently where setting was very important. The authors’ descriptions of the settings were poignant and well done and most definitely impacted my appreciation of the books.

    I probably pay less attention to physical descriptions of characters in my reading and more to their personalities and whether I feel a connection to them. Based on that impression, I form my own picture in my mind of how they might look.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Why thanks, Janice. Did you eventually find the second deer and lizard? I can give hints! 😉

    I LOVE setting in novels, though, as you say, sometimes characters and action are SO big, that setting is secondary. I’m with you on paying attention to personalities more than physical descriptions. Like Natalia, I rarely “see” the person physically in any sort of detail in my mind.

    How’s the writing going?

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  • avatar Patrick Ross Says:

    OK, I’ll confess that I missed one of the deer and one of the owls, but they were trick questions, finding more than one “Waldo”! 🙂 The lizard was hard to find.

    Glad you didn’t have any rattlesnake photos! But as I tell my family, I liked rattlesnakes, because they would warn me when I was near. I did NOT like scorpions, who lacked the same courtesy.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Well – those owls and deer were tricky. True – I was not clear in indicating that multiple Waldos were an option. Ha ha. I had SEVERAL very camouflaged rattlesnake shots, but decided against including them — one I took after returning to the scene where I nearly ran over a rattler on my bicycle (as my foot pedaled downward toward it — and I discovered it — I nearly toppled the entire bike). You know you want to see it!

    HATE scorps for the same reason. Bet you don’t miss them at all.

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  • avatar Erika Marks Says:

    Melissa, yet again your landscape (and photos) leave me breathless. Curiously, as I was reading your post, I was wondering if you were going to talk about the pieces that reveal themselves through the course of the edits, vs those we lose along the way. I think both happen for me–and there’s no question that I love the way that, like your “invisible” inhabitants, themes or motivations come out of hiding and are suddenly visible to me–and I think to myself: Whoa! Have you been here the whole time? 🙂

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    What a great point, Erika, about the hidden themes and motivations that just seem to magically appear (or were always buried subconsciously) as we write! I always wonder: if someone asks, “Did you plan that?” — will I tell the truth and say, “Nope. I have NO idea how it all came together.” That happened to me with a character I didn’t know “why” I had in my WIP. Then his ‘connection’ became so CLEAR during edits and made such a big impact. Such fun discoveries when exhumed from their cloaked tombs!

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  • avatar Lisa Ahn Says:

    This was fun! And I love those little owls. I’ve been reading Mary Oliver, and several of the poems today were about the wonder of owls. I also discovered that my six-year-old daughter loves to listen to Mary Oliver. That made for a great afternoon.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Such serendipity regarding the owls in my post and in your reading! A six-year-old already fond of poetry. Way to go, Lisa!

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  • avatar Leah Says:

    I love this post, Melissa! It’s timely too because Sophie just discovered the Where’s Waldo books recently. I forgot how fun and new it is for kids to discover him. And how tough it is too! I love how nature conceals and how some creatures are born with that ability to shield themselves through nature. It’s very magical, if you ask me. Fabulous photos, as always!

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  • avatar katie Pickard Fawcett Says:

    Great idea for a post. I love “invisible” critters. One of the things I like most about writing is putting a manuscript away for a few weeks and then taking it out and finding all the surprises — the hidden/invisible meanings and connections that I didn’t even realize I was writing. 🙂

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    Melissa Reply:

    There really is something magical about stepping away from our writing, then coming back to those wonderful discoveries. I think, at some subconscious level, we’re deliberately writing those connections all along, don’t you?

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