“There are no dull subjects. There are only dull writers.”
“My task, which I am trying to achieve, is, by the power of the
written word to make you hear, to make you feel — it is before all,
to make you see. That — and no more, and it is everything.”
Enticing readers to enter the world you create through your words can be challenging. One of the best tools you have at your command is color — the vividness or variety of your language. Anecdotes, similes, and metaphors — these can all add richness and texture to your writing. As Jack Hart notes in A Writer’s Coach, readers want to be rewarded for the time and effort they devote to an author’s work. One way to reward them, says Hart, is to seed your story with “nuggets that give pleasure. Think of them as the chips in a chocolate-chip cookie.”
Color offers a reader the joy of discovery; an unexpected comparison, an unusual modifier, or a detail that reveals much more than meets the eye — these are all pleasure-giving nuggets that can engage and entrance readers and keep them moving along with you through your story.
Raymond Chandler, who created the classic detective Philip Marlowe used to write on half sheets of paper; his self-imposed goal was to create “a little bit of magic” on each half sheet (See Blue-clock Socks) That’s a form of color. Jack Hart devotes a whole chapter to adding color to writing. Here are a few tips you may find helpful:
• Pick three details: Capture your characters by describing three details that define who they are in revealing and insightful ways.
• Sharpen your similes: Coming up with arresting, unusual comparisons adds flavor and spice to your writing. Hemingway and Fitzgerald honed their descriptive skills by picking out random objects and then creating comparisons for them.
• Use color carefully: “Metaphors, similes, and other figurative devices work best when you measure them out carefully,” observes Hart. Using too many can dilute their impact; too few can make your writing seem lackluster. So sprinkle them artfully throughout your prose to add spice and snap.