Tuesday, September 23, 2014

240 Shades of Color by Andy Scheer

How many crayons does your box hold. Sixteen? Thirty-two? How about two-hundred forty?

That's the number of terms author Ingrid Sundberg placed in the color thesaurus she compiled to aid her writing.

She started with a dozen basics (white, tan, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, blue, green, brown, gray, and black). For each, she named eleven more terms.

Starting with yellow, she listed canary, gold, daffodil, flaxen, butter, lemon, mustard, corn, medallion, dandelion, fire, bumblebee, banana, butterscotch, dijon, honey, blonde, pineapple, and tuscan sun.

Purple was joined by mauve, violet, boysenberry, lavender, plum, magenta, lilac, grape, periwinkle, sangria, eggplant, jam, iris, heather, amethyst, raisin, orchid, mulberry, and wine.

Her list of 12 colors became a chart with 240 shades (including 19 more of grey).

Like most writing tools, use a color thesaurus with caution. If you're not sure what cerulean looks like, your readers may not either. Compile your own list—using the shades that flow from your vocabulary.

A few years back, I edited a novel for a writer who includes in each story an auto from the family's museum of classic cars. This story would feature their 1930 Packard roadster – a car I'd seen many times.

Red and silver -- or maroon and pewter?
Working from a male author's typical box of just sixteen colors, he described the car as red and silver. Not the terms I'd choose.

I revisited the museum, walked around the Packard with the writer's sister, and asked her opinion. Like most women, her box holds at least 64 shades, if not 132. After a few minutes, we settled on maroon and pewter. Nothing exotic (like aubergine) but evocative and accurate.

Looking to make your writing more colorful? Visit your paint store for sample cards, then compile your personal color thesaurus. It may help your stories get read.


Davalyn Spencer said...

Great post. Love color and the paint-store idea. Thanks!

Linda Glaz said...

I use this in my male pov class. It's so important to know how a guy looks at colors in his head. Teal, azure, midnight? Nope, just blue!

Andy Scheer, Hartline Literary said...

Most guys have no more than 16 crayons in their box, and many just 8.

Linda Glaz said...

I completely agree, Andy. If only we could convince female authors of that. I like the way you put it about the crayons. That is going to be a visual for my next class!

Mehul Patel said...

Great post.........

I Love colors and the paint-store idea........
Thanks for sharring this......