Thursday Writing Prompt No. 33

A dried starfish photographed on a textured blue paper.

I’ve just started reading A Perfect Red, by Amy Butler Greenfield. So for this week’s Thursday Writing Prompt, let’s explore the concept of color and how it relates to writing.

There are a lot of phrases in our language that revolve around color: seeing red, green with envy, yellow with jealousy, having the blues. People see things in black and white, but the world exists in shades of gray. All of these terms infuse our language and our writing with energy. And colors aren’t just restricted to the primary colors, either. Green, for instance, comes in a wide range of hues from olive green to forest to mint. Thesaurus.com lists a few green color names: malachite, chartreuse, fir, moss, pea, and verdigris, for example.

Your task this week is to write about something colorful. It doesn’t have to be anything major in your life: a notebook or pair of draperies, or even a favorite article of clothing will suffice. Describe the color of this item, using everyday color words like green and blue. Then, rewrite your sentences and replace the basic words with more sophisticated versions of the colors: turquoise, cerulean, scarlet. See how the work changes once you begin to experiment with your word choice?

Continue writing your description, and feel the difference that word choice makes in your language. Are you more inclined to write basic prose when you use basic color words like red and yellow? Does your prose begin to sing when you include vermilion and sterling and citron in your piece? Take a few minutes to look up color words and find out more about them, and find ways to incorporate something other than the basic words into your writing. You’ll find that they add more than just color to your work; they’ll add subtle shades of meaning (pun intended) that primary colors don’t convey.

If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out any website that shows artist materials, such as oil paints and acrylics. You’ll find names for common pigments, like ultramarine blue and cobalt blue, burn umber, and more. For ideas about naming colors, websites of paint companies, or even crayon manufacturers, are good resources. If nothing else, tootling around looking at colors can give you some inspiration when your writing is blocked and help to release your inner artist, who’s quite closely related to your inner writer. One creative foray opens up the path for your creative juices to flow.

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