When my son arrived in Lima, Peru, while on a mission trip some years ago, he was struck by the riot of colour in the city. His email said, “It looked like a kid had gone crazy with a box of crayons.” Without naming any colours, he had created a picture of the scene I will never forget.
How can we add colour to our writing so it lives in the minds of our readers?
Here are a few ideas:
The above example relates directly to the use of one of the five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. These elements, used appropriately, add freshness and vitality to our work.
My husband and I recently took my mom to see her sister in a seniors’ complex. My aunt sat on her bed beside me, and my husband offered her his seat on the easy chair instead of the backless seat she occupied. “Oh, dry up!” she said, then tipped her head back and laughed out loud. Not the response you might expect from a senior citizen, but then, my aunt has never done the expected thing. We must think outside the norm, let our imaginations and memories soar.
What happened when we took the detour on a road trip and ended up in the back 40 of nowhere? When our schmoozing grandson complimented me on my choice of clothing as he flew by me on his way to catch the desperate cat? When we inadvertently invited guests who couldn’t stand each other? We can feel the tension, the joy, the frustration, and we can let it permeate our work.
Our Level of Emotion and Enthusiasm
You’ve heard the adage, “No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader.” It’s true. We have to commit ourselves to our writing, dive into the world we’re creating, live it, and love it. Only then will it sparkle in the mind of the reader.
I’m currently working on a manuscript that takes place in China between 1945 and 1952. Even with my best efforts, the whole thing remained colourless because I couldn’t “see” the world I was writing about. My solution: research. We have to know whereof we write before the reader can see or understand. Or care. Whether our writing is historical, contemporary or journalistic, we need to research until we can visualize the scenes.
We should work the words, sentences, paragraphs, and pages as if they were warm, pliant play dough. Discover the gold vein in the rock. Iron out the unnecessary wrinkles in the paper. Polish the dark stone until you can see your face in it.
We’re talking about the heart of our writing here. So we have to know our hearts and to them be true. Open our souls, the eyes of our hearts. Collect the scattered thoughts and memories and let them add life and colour to our writing.
Janice Dick writes historical and contemporary fiction, inspirational articles and book reviews. She also edits and presents writing workshops.