Monochrome or Colour?

 Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a monochrome world?

Photograph by Sheila Smart

It’s hard to imagine isn’t it?! Everywhere we look, we’re surrounded by colours; from nature, vehicles, advertisements, shops, soft furnishings and even our own clothes, and we take all this for granted because it’s always there. We don’t have to search it out because it’s everywhere we look.



But, indulge me for a moment . . . shut your eyes and try to picture everything around you purely in monochrome. It would be beyond boring to live in a world like that, with no colour to bring everything to life. It would be depressing to the nth degree!

That is what your writing is like if you don’t bring ‘colour’ into it.

There are so many ways you can do this:

Your characters

Physical descriptions. You don’t have to go overboard, but your readers want to have an image in their mind of what your main characters look like. Is your protagonist a slim, hazel eyed brunette or a chubby blue-eyed blonde? This is better than nothing – at least you’ve given something for the reader to work with, but by taking it just a little further, you can write a picture of how they appear. Imagine them in your mind’s eye then write what you see. You can always cut superfluous information (which would happen during the editing process anyway), but you’ve brought your character to life just by adding some colour. And don’t forget your characters don’t have to be flawless; they’re more real if they have a small defect or two (like a scar from a childhood accident, or a lazy eye, or one lip being out of proportion with the other).

Emotions. You need to show that your characters are ‘real’ by the way they react to certain situations – SHOW being with operative word here. “He was angry . . .” this phrase TELLS us something, but it has no colour. Now consider, “His skin flushed purple as his eyes narrowed, blazing with an icy fury and he clenched his fists so tight you could imagine the bones breaking through the skin . . .” Now you are showing the reader; you are giving them colour and an image they can relate to.

Gestures. I’m an observer of people and I tend to particularly watch expressions and mannerisms. Some people use their hands a lot when they talk, some pull on an ear lobe when they’re lying, some run their fingers through their hair when they’re thinking. Some people bend forward when they’re vehemently trying to get a point across or arguing. Imagine telling a friend a secret when there are others around and you don’t want them to hear – what do you do? You lean towards them and whisper in their ear – right? The point is people don’t just tend to stand like mannequins, with no movement at all apart from their lips when they speak. Use these sorts of things to add colour.

For extra examples and help, look back at my three-part series called Describing People;

Part 1 Part 2

Part 3

Immediate surroundings

Again you don’t want to overdo it, but give your readers a flavour of where your characters are. Are they in a 17th century mansion? Are they in a 1960’s semi-detached house? Are they in a café or posh restaurant? Are they in a park, wood or forest? Pick out one or two features and describe them a little so your readers can picture the scene.

World Building

When you write fantasy or sci-fi, you especially need to bring your world to your reader as it’ll be somewhere they can’t relate to. Is the sky always purple during the day? Is the grass blue? Do the trees have strange coloured leaves? Do the flowers talk?

 I’m going to use a small example here from Tower of Bones by Connie J Jasperson and her world of Neveyah. Her main characters are on a quest and they are approaching a place called Mal Evol which has been taken over by a dark God. She describes the Mountains of the Moon where some of the face is as shiny and smooth as glass. The land approaching Mal Evol has been turned from fertile to poisoned soil which will only sustain thorn bushes and trees higher than the head of the tallest character on the quest. She describes strange Rat People who seem part human yet are vicious and attack for no reason, Thundercows which cannot be eaten by humans and will only eat the thorn bushes. And so the list goes on. Through her brilliant depiction and use of ‘colour’, she had brought her world of Neveyah to life. But the best thing is she hasn’t overdone it. She gives the reader just enough description in each place for them to form a picture, without detracting from the action.

A thorn forest

 All these elements brought together in your writing will add the colour a reader looks for. So from now on, is your writing going to be Monochrome or Colour?

My thanks to Connie for allowing me to use information from her novel to emphasise my point.


8 thoughts on “Monochrome or Colour?

  1. What an awesome surprise! Thank you for your kind words, and generous support. Your gentle but firm guidance in editing Forbidden Road, the sequel to Tower of Bones is helping me to more fully unveil the characters and the world of Neveyah. I am honored tyou enjoyed Tower of Bones enough to want to work with me on the sequel!

    • Hey Connie,
      Knowing your work as well as I do (especially as I’m editing Forbidden Road) the examples of descriptions used in world building were completely ingrained in my brain so it flowed from my fingers just when I needed it (I even found a pic of a thorn forest for you!!).
      Having said that, if the way you handled your world building had not been a good enough example for me to use then I would have used another so it’s a testament to your writing skills!
      I am honoured to be working with an author of your calibre on Forbidden Road and so flattered you asked me in the first place!

    • Hi Allie,
      Glad you liked the post and you hit the nail right on the head with your ‘movie’ comment. Readers need to be able to picture the characters and make connections with them on whatever level they choose, but it can’t be done without giving them colour first, The same goes for surroundings and world building.
      Connie’s writing was a perfect example for me to use in this situation and thank you for your kind words about mine (as you are one of the very few who have actually seen Heart Search: Lost, you can actually comment on it)!

    • Hi Laura,

      Thanks – I’m glad you enjoyed it. You’re also very welcome on me bringing Connie to your attention. Her Twitter is @cjjasp so you can find her easier.
      Tower of Bones is the beginning of a fantasy epic that I reckon Hollywood should make a film from. As you read it, you can picture it in your mind as if it were on the big screen. I wrote a review on it a couple of months ago, before she asked me to edit book 2 for her. Have a read and see what you think. I was gripped by it and book 2 is just as awesome!
      I’ll pop over to your blog in a bit as I need to nip off for a while, but whatever it is, thank you!
      By the way, if you want another great author to follow, try Alison DeLuca (Twitter @AlisonDeLuca) – she’s great too and I’ve reviewed all three of her books on here).
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!
      Carlie xo

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