Giving readers a chance to catch their breath…


In the study of colour psychology, red is considered to be the most emotionally intense colour. It stimulates a faster heartbeat and breathing, and is also the colour associated with passion and love. In the garden a flaming bed of red Salvia or Geraniums makes a summer-long attention-grabbing statement.



However, you won’t find much red in my garden… a solitary accidental Astilbe is the only recurring specimen, and this year it’s almost buried under ferns. I veer towards the calming effect of pastels when choosing perennials and flowering shrubs for the summer beds — a lot of white, some pink and bits of pale purple in a haphazard mixture of Hostas and Hydrangea, Cranesbill, Daisies, Lilacs, Peonies and Spiraea, Clematis and Columbines, Echinacea and Masterwort.(Whew! Don’t be too impressed that I remembered all their names. I have them written down!)

The accent is found in my annuals… a splash of colour in hanging baskets and containers on our back deck. Every pot has a couple red Geraniums peeking out — actually they’re not true Geraniums at all, but Pelargoniums (although I suppose you didn’t need to know that right now).

It’s difficult to live with sustained boldness, whether it’s from a bright flower or an intense person. Too much exposure becomes tiring, but an occasional pop of vitality is uplifting.

To some extent this can be applied to our writing. We’re told to ensure there is always escalating conflict in our novels, but continuous pages of extreme tension and scenes of constant drama or action don’t always keep the reader forging ahead. There is a need to occasionally let the reader take a breath. That’s the reason behind inserting an incident of comic relief or of the outrageously mundane… not as a letdown, but as a momentary distraction — a brief switch in focus to refresh the mind before it moves on.

Can you think of an incident in a favourite novel (or in a movie) that effectively illustrates this?


“Our lives are dyed the color of our imaginations.”

Marcus Aurelius

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