Friday, January 23, 2015

C is for Colour

Margaret thinks about 'colour' in our novels.

Colour in characters
Colour in writing
Colour in descriptions

Characters take on a life of their own when you begin writing and some are more colourful than others. You might think, for instance, that in romance all heroes are similar – but this is far from the truth. They might be larger than life but they are all individuals with their own likes and dislikes, and their own problems. They are invariably dominant characters with colourful personalities. My current work in process hero is red. He’s totally dominant. I’ve only just met him but he’s definitely not a man to cross. My heroine is in danger of crossing him right from the word go. I can see storm clouds on the horizon – and they, most definitely won’t be red. I’ll leave you to imagine their colour. Readers like to identify with characters. How often have you heard them say that they know someone like the person in a book? It means the writer really has brought that character to life.

Colour in writing is the skilful use of words to describe those characters. A need to make them real people in the eyes of the reader. I could write, “She had blue eyes and blonde hair.” And I probably have done! But if I said, “She had hair the colour of ripened corn and eyes that echoed the blue sky.” it would make the writing far more colourful. Colour is also found in people’s emotions – the most common is feeling blue. Not that any of my characters feel this! We also have green with envy and red with anger. And I’m sure you can think of more.

Descriptions of places need to be vibrant and interesting, described in such a way that the reader can easily see them in their mind’s eye. Having said that it is important they are woven seamlessly into the story so that readers don't even think of them as descriptions but a part of the whole.

All of this brings to mind the words I learned when I first began to write: “Show, don’t tell.”

14 comments:

  1. Great post, Margaret. The Flip Dictionary has amazing suggestions for describing blue, yellow, red, etc. I tend to use (too many) similes to describe emotions. (Green with envy seems too cliche, but so are my comparisons, too often) I still wrestle with adding color to clothing descriptions--what's enough or too much. I read somewhere to start a description as if you were describing for a sight-impaired reader.

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  2. I've not heard of the Flip Dictionary, Ana. I use Roget's Thesaurus quite a lot. An interesting suggestion to start a description as if you were describing for a sight-impaired reader. I must try it. I've just started a new book so it's good timing.

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  3. I love the way you use your topic of color to describe things other than actual colors! I think word choice is important so that the reader can enter the world we've created, although I do like to leave some of the descriptions to the readers' imaginations.

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  4. You're right, Jennifer about leaving some things to the readers' imagination. It's so important.

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    1. I'm always disappointed when I watch a show based on a book I read because in my opinion, they never get the character the way I pictured him or her. That's not to say I don't enjoy the storyline, but it's just not the same as what's in my head (maybe a good thing?).

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  5. I think my mantra must be 'less is more' as I tend to underwrite descriptions out of fear of overwriting them!
    Must admit I'd never thought of my characters as 'being' a colour, though. Now I'm wondering what colour mine are!

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  6. Colour's an interesting concept, isn't it, Paula? But it does help in the writing process.

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    1. I read somewhere that you should bring at least one colour into the first page of your novel. An Interesting suggestion!

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    2. I totally had to check on this in the mss I just completed. If using honey blonde to describe my heroine's hair counts, I used color on the first page! :)

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    3. I think any colour counts, Debra! :-)

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  7. I've never thought of my characters as being a particular color. Interesting. What would also be interesting is to see how the color of a character changes over the course of the book...as they grow and change and ultimately are able to love.

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  8. An interesting post, Margaret, and a good way of approaching characters!

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  9. I'm glad my post has been thought provoking. I've always found it a useful concept.

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