Writing In Color

by Cheryl Owen-Wilson

I sit and stare at the blank white page in front of me, willing my fingers to pirouette across the computer keyboard and create black, angular designs called words: words that will transport my readers into the colorful world living only in my mind. I stare at a great deal of blank white in my life, because I’m also a painter, who sits with brush in hand, in front of a stark-white canvas, waiting for the same magical muse to occur before my blood-shot, sleep deprived eyes. On days when the djinn in the bottle has heard me and my wish is granted; the rhythm of my fingers, whether on a keyboard or with brush in hand is the same. It’s the rhythm of transferring the colors that swirl in my brain onto that blank white space before me.

Do my readers see the same vibrant rust-orange when I describe my protagonist’s wet tendrils of hair lying across her pale, freckle-specked cheek? Do they see the serene shades of soft pinks and velvety blues in my antagonist just before her personality shifts into a homicidal burst of flaming, crimson-red anger? What shade of silver do they see when I describe the voodoo-cursed bracelet passed down from one generation of women to another? Does it have the shiny liquid hues that move through my brain like a slithering snake, a rainbow of colors swirling through varying shades of grey? Then, there are the preconceived notions of color. Is sunlight yellow forever cheery; does it always signify in the readers brain, happily ever after and flowers blooming? Or can I use it to catch my reader unaware, by a demon that lurks just around the next bend in the road, shimmering with iridescent yellow sparking off its scaly skin?

Do I use color to help when I can’t find the words to a story, the tone, the mood? Do I use words when I can’t quite visualize the detail of a painting? Yes, I do. I live, I create, and I write in color. Those pigments with their ever-changing tints and tones fascinate me. I have a childhood memory of trying to imagine a color that I had never seen. I’m still searching for that elusive color, because until I create the word for it, it does not exist.

So many colors, so many questions. But for today I’m writing and through the great mystery of imagination, I’m not sitting at a keyboard. I’m floating down a gator-filled bayou. The pale red showing through the sienna-hued ochre of the weathered paint, peeling off the hull of my pirogue, shows my reader its age. The sepia greens and blacks that float around my small flat-bottomed boat cause my reader to see the movement of water. Today the screen in front of me is not taunting me with its white face and it’s not just covered in black angular things called words, it’s covered in a veritable palette of varying shades of characters and the vibrant world in which they live.

I write in color, do you?

2 thoughts on “Writing In Color

  1. Lovely post, Cheryl. Yes, I do write in color, though I’m sure you’re more keenly in tune with that dimension, being a visual artist as well. In my current WIP, my future city is full of neon, so color is a big part of the landscape.

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