What Color is Your Writing World?

Sunday, January 27, 2013
Earlier this week, while I proofread a few chapters from my current WIP, a scary thought raced through my mind.

'It's so....white.'

Translated, it's completely vanilla and filled with cream-colored references. Even the main female character is decked out in white in almost every scene. (And no, she is not a doctor, and trust me, she's no angel.)

Now, I'm not saying the writing is bad, it's just lacking color in these chapters.

Kind of disappointing coming from a writer with "Mango Crush" on her office walls.

But the revelation reminded me of an exercise I would use with freshman English students who struggled to bring color to their writing.

Perhaps I'd asked them to describe the sun, bring it to life through color. What would I get? Yellow. Plain ol' yellow.

I would ask them to describe the shade of yellow. Is it the color of butter? Of a buttercup along a country road? The yellow of a middle-of-July sunflower? Post-it note yellow?

"Just yellow," students would reply.

The next day, they would be in for a surprise. Paint samples littered a tabletop. (Thank you, locally-owned hardware store.)

"Show me what kind of yellow."

Once they saw the connection between a concrete example and word choice, their writing improved.

I don't want my writing to be 'just yellow' - or just plain ol' white - for that matter. I want vibrant words to run down the pages.

After a trip to the lumber yard, Eros Pink, Adriatic Sea, and Jargon Jade complete the scenes, along with a tinge of Crescent Moon White.

by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's work at her website


Sioux Roslawski said...


I've used those paint samples that I've borrowed/snagged/stolen from hardware stores, punched a hole in each of them, and put them on a round key ring, so they're handy for kids to use.

Yes, "vanilla" is fine, but we wouldn't want to live on an entire diet of only vanilla ice cream, white bread, and mashed potatoes. We need strawberry and chocolate syrup, we need a layer of melted cheddar cheese, we need a brown gravy speckled with pepper to make it appealing.

Good luck adding color to your WIP, LuAnn...

Unknown said...

Great reminder! Like the way you have used paint chips !

Margo Dill said...

Great writing idea--I think it would work for adult writers, too in a writing workshop.

I always tell writers not to put too many colors in though OR then readers almost become overwhelmed with the colors they are trying to imagine. Everything with writing is such a fine line. :)

Angela Mackintosh said...

At least it was white and not Fifty Shades of Grey. ;)

robyn corum said...

A great reminder, and superbly handled. I feel confident your students were blessed! Thanks for sharing --

vatrask said...

Oh my god thank you. I have a giant collection of paint samples to help me with colour and people always think I'm crazy.

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