Writing Exercise: A Sense of Color

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Sometimes colors go together in a way that are soothing to the eye.

I love this cup. the color combination is sunny and bright, especially with the flowers behind it.

Which door do you want to walk through?


I find this jarring and not peaceful. What about you?


It’s important to notice that different combinations of color affect us in different ways. Some bring oodles of emotions and some calm us down. As the combinations of colors can affect us so can our word choices when we are describing a scene, a situation, an emotion, a frustration or an accomplishment.

Thinking about the difference between a novel, a short story, a poem, or a song we can see that word choice is vital in more succinct expressions. But how about that novel? Does it really matter?

When editors discuss children’s books(and if you don’t write kids books please stay with me as it affects you too) They talk about where a book is read. A picture book is cuddle time. Mom or Dad and child are together in a cozy place to read. Board books are shared while waiting but also at bed. It is important that these read aloud books have a rhythm. They don’t have to rhyme but they must flow and be easy to read aloud without stumbling over words. Chapter books on up to novels are read mostly by an individual and in various places, waiting for people, before bed, at a meal alone in a cafe or under the covers with a flashlight. Now people are reading on their phones as well.

Word Choices Matter

We are painting pictures with our words. We are creating worlds no matter what age we write for. We are describing and drawing our readers in to a time and place. Creating magic and a place to slip away to is our goal, isn’t it?

Every first draft should be written.

Just sit down and write it, but when you rewrite, consider your reader, where you see them reading and how easy or erudite you want to make it.  Not all language is simple. People misunderstand each other all the time based on timbre and word choice. This is a way to add conflict to a story. How many times are we misunderstood in text or fear we are so we add the “LOL” to make sure the recipient knows we are joking.

When you hit your second or third or fiftieth draft remember to make sure you are saying what you mean to say. If your book is to be read aloud by all means read it aloud as you go.

Dad was a great example of an author who went from poetry to short stories to novels. Each format demanding a different way of choosing words. Novels are more forgiving than a haiku but if you choose to read him aloud you will find the words flow easily. The mark of the poet turned author who wrote with a eye towards flow that wasn’t even conscious.

I started this about a sense of color so I bring you back to it.

Look out your window. How many greens do you see? If you are in a city with no green around your window, how many grays or beiges? Look at your eyeshadow pallets, or google a picture of Central Park…okay here is one…or three…

How many greens do you see?

This was an exercise given to an acting class in NYC and subsequently given to me by my acting teacher and I now give it to my writing students all the time.

Nothing is just green.

  • Tell me a tree is green without using the word green.
  • Tell me a tree is green without telling me a tree is green…(haven’t done that last one yet but I think I will try right now).

If you want to read another post about this exercise check out this one: Shades of Green

And if you want more exercises like this one sign up for my newsletter and exercises here–NEWS and Exercises

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