Colours are very important to me in my writing, and in my life in general. They’re useful descriptors, to help transfer the picture I “see in my head” to the page and give readers a sense of characters and settings in my story.
Everyone knows what blue eyes look like. They’re, well, blue. But for me blue isn’t just blue; it’s aquamarine, baby blue, china blue, cornflower blue, crystal blue, denim blue, electric blue, forget-me-not blue, gunmetal blue, ice blue, indigo, laser-beam blue, sapphire, sky blue, steel blue, and so on.
It’s important also to bear the rhythm of a sentence in mind – it’s a lot easier to say, “Oh, those baby-blues of his… how could she tear herself away?” than “She looked deep into his cerulean blue eyes”. The first is a description many of us would use, the second is more likely to conjure up an image of an artist’s studio with half-squeezed tubes of oil paint everywhere – which is, of course, entirely appropriate if you’re writing about an artist 🙂
Sometimes I find it useful to have a visual tool handy when it comes to qualifying a colour. This is where colour charts from paint companies can help. To the left you can see one fro Farrow & Ball which I actually had framed because I liked it so much! Notice the way the colours are sorted into cold/warm and light/dark. And the names are fantastic, like “Dead Salmon” or “Arsenic”. Sets off my imagination.
Colours can also subtly twist what you’re saying. If you refer to someone with mousy hair, we can immediately picture the colour because a lot of people have this hair colour, and nothing is out of the ordinary in the image. If, for example, we say instead that “her hair was the colour of a dead mouse”, it suddenly changes the mood of what we see because it creates an image of a person who may be ill, or sad, or unwashed, or even all three. And that is a different story altogether…
Colour collections are everywhere. Here’s a photo of an eye shadow palette I took at a NYX make-up counter recently. Using qualifying words I’ve managed to come up with some descriptors. In the top row there is “Roman Roof” and “Liquid Gold”, in the bottom row I have “Rhubarb Compote” and “Tin Soldier”, among others.
This is from my own imagination, of course. I can’t remember the names on the actual palette!