Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Elements of Successful Fiction Series

Using Color in Writing

Successful fiction is a combination of factors that work together to form a story. Examining these elements can help us to improve our writing and analyze areas that we may be weak in.

Color brings our work to Life
Color is a wonderful gift from God. Imagine if our world was black and white with a few shades of gray thrown in. Words like drab, boring and dull spring to mind.

When I was a child, I had a picture book that I adored. Each page represented a color and this was shown through a photo collage. For example, the yellow page showed a block of butter, a hunk of cheese, a bunch of sunflowers, a ripe peach, a spoon of honey, and a corn cob. This was a visual portrayal of color but we can produce a similar effect with our words.

Make a Color List
I’ve found it helpful to make lists of words that relate to a certain colour. These can be written into a notebook or saved as a computer file. If you’re feeling creative, you could include pictures to illustrate the words. Be sure to leave space so you can continue to add to the lists and refer to them when you need a dose of inspiration.

Here are some of my thoughts about the color white: pristine, pure, angel’s wings, fluffy cotton balls, dazzling, brilliant, crystal drops, coiled bandages, crinkled cotton, starched bed linen, a nurse’s cap, sparkling snow, sheets flapping in the wind, bleached bones, tulle and tutus.

How to make Colors Interesting
Because colors are common, the impact in fiction tends to fade unless they are introduced in fresh new ways. Here are some examples of creative use of color:

The car was the exact shade of her glossy red lips
The tulip was the color of pure sunshine
The sky looked like a giant bruise

Did you notice that in two of these sentences, the actual color is not mentioned but rather implied?

Creating Atmosphere with Color
Color can be used to set a scene and reveal character. A rebellious youth may have a black bedroom and wear dark clothing with metal accessories. An elderly woman may have a penchant for green scarves and yellow clothing.

Raise Questions with Color
Some items are traditionally colored in a certain way. Tamper with that and immediately the reader will ask why. Why did the bride wear a bright orange gown? Why was the Ferrari painted pink? Be sure to reveal a good answer later in the story.

A Word of Warning
Don’t get carried away with color or your story will sound overdone. There are times when a simple red, blue or yellow will suffice.

Recommended Reading
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards is a wonderful example of how to use color effectively. In the first page, there are seven references to color, and the book as a whole contains some beautiful descriptions that incorporate color.

Colors are a gift and we can use them to add life, depth and texture to any piece of writing.

Come back next week to find out how food can be used to strengthen a story.


Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Read some of her work at Suite 101 , Take Root and Write and Faithwriters.

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1 comment:

Cindy said...

Thanks for the post. It was very helpful. I am trying to use more description in my story (which abounds with dialogue) but I want to use it sparingly, making a big impression with the least amount of words. The sky looked like a giant bruise--I like that!