What colours your writing?

There are bits of unexpected colour everywhere right now. They brighten up an ordinary landscape that’s in transition between seasons.

There are other colours turning up this month, but on houses, inside and out. Purple and lime green Christmas decorations. Teal and orange. Even black and gold. I’ve seen them in recent magazine spreads. “Our decorations are designed to complement the style of the house, not compete with it,” said one set of homeowners. Their rooms look very festive – so glamorous and glitzy.

Although I prefer more traditional colour schemes to the modern ones, I love all the seasonal sparkle. This year we have little white lights on our tree, tucked into garlands across the mantels, over the kitchen cupboards and wound around the railing on our back deck. They’re magical.

For years our trees were a happy jumble of decorations – heirlooms from our parents, others handmade by our children, and some gifted by friends More recently we’ve had a few themed trees. My favourite for a while was wintry white with snowflakes, glass snowballs, frosted pinecones. I added a few new white baubles each year and a snowy white wreath over the fireplace. We hung large snowflakes in the windows and sprayed artificial frost around the edges. Then I began to realize I wasn’t improving anything. In fact, what I was missing was colour.

We didn’t take away the snowflakes but added a few red baubles in various textures and some of the more meaningful old ones. They and a strategically located poinsettia or two changed the atmosphere by bringing a welcome warmth into the room.

There’s a correlation between decorating a home and creating a fictional world. Haven’t you ever noticed how one piece of writing may be sterile while another is as rich as a tapestry? What makes the difference?

How do you add colour to your writing?


Bauble photo by Kittisak


Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

11 thoughts on “What colours your writing?

  1. Carol, that small attention to detail, the one addition of color in an otherwise blank canvas, can make a world of difference. I recently added a bit of color to a completed novel, a bit here and there to emphasise the inner motivation of my MC and when I was done, she sparkled like your tree! Wonderful post and once more, great photography to complement your words 🙂

  2. Again you’ve mastered the analogy. I live in Kansas, a place people denigrate as being too flat and boring. But it isn’t. If you look, there is color, variety of flora and fauna, infinite detail. But it’s more subtle than the blatancy of mountains or seashore. The trick is to make people look. That’s the trick in the writing as well. Shine a light to focus on the detail. The details make all the difference.

  3. What a great comparison! I add colour to my writing usually in about the third draft. First draft – get down the story. Second draft – work on characterization and making the story readable. Third draft – pay special attention to “colour” items – visual matters and other sensory details – as a well as checking the motives of the characters. A story that is highlighted (not drowned!) with the addition of “colour” details helps the reader break through the veil of disbelief and live the story.

    Thanks for a very interesting post, Careann. It’s one of those that I’ll think about often!

  4. I tend to add a bit too much color to my first drafts. I’ve had CPs point out rainbow-hued passages that pulled them out of the story. I don’t know what this says about me. Maybe I just go for the most basic descriptions and need to liven them up. =)

  5. I tend to be like Keli and add too much colour intially and have to take some out when I rewrite. Kids don’t want to bogged down with too much description and want more action. I am the same with my Christmas tree. Every year I say I will try to do a colour theme but can’t resist adding my favourite decorations from the past. So it is always very colourful, but I love it. When I am finished, I turn to my husband and say “This is definetly the best tree yet!” He laughs, knowing I will say the same thing next year.

  6. My tree theme is red and white this year. Adding colour to my mss starts with photos. Because setting is often crucial to my plots, I write colours right at the start. If I need to describe autumn colours, I look at autumn photographs. If I need to create a dark and haunting scene, I check out dark and haunting movies. Then I use as many adjectives as I can to describe what I see. It sounds easy, but it actually takes work. Fun work, though. When we’re travelling down the main highway in winter, the highway that passes all those storefronts, I take a mental picture for later. I’m a visual person, so I’m able to draw upon these visions later. I can still see the vibrant colours of Mexico, and it’s been several years since we were there.

  7. Good morning. You’re here before I’ve even finished my orange juice. 🙂 I notice Florence and Judith’s mention of small details, and Keli and Darlene’s recognition that there can be too much of a good thing, too, and am reminded that subtlety is an important consideration.

  8. I love a color-themed tree; it bespeaks richness and order. This year we have deep urple ornatments and blue glittery snowflakes. Of course we added our favorite ornaments from 37 years of marriage. Some have become like old friends.

    I think what adds color to writing is the heart of the writer.

  9. When I think of colour in writing, I think more of a distinctive voice and vibrant, quirky characters than of description of setting, etc. And how about snappy dialogue? I guess we can infuse our writing with colour in many different ways. 🙂

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