Monday, November 2, 2009

Paint a Story

My sister-in-law is in the middle of painting the interior of her house. She is putting color on all-white walls for the first time.

Sounds easy enough, especially since she's a watercolor artist and knows a lot about color.

But I think painting walls must be a little different from painting a picture, because she's encountering color shock.

What does this have to do with writing?

Writers experience word shock.

We all speak and read every day. These activities involve words. Yet putting words of our own on the screen is vastly different from ordering a burger at a fast food drive-thru. Or from reading the latest bestseller.

Writing requires us to think of words in different ways.

So try thinking of your words as paint.

Verbs are the deep colors on the paint chip. Strong and intense.

The color next to the verb is the noun. It works with the verb but isn't quite as intense. It's still precise and leaves no doubt in the reader's mind what the writer means.

Flowing down from these two colors are the adjectives and adverbs. Nice colors, but middle of the road.

The light pastels are all the other words - prepositions, conjunctions, etc. They fade off into nothingness, as they should. Their job is to connect the words that shape the picture we're painting.

Instant accent? Black or white. Those are interjections.

So . . . paint a story!

13 comments:

Jackie Houchin said...

Carol, I absolutely love your blog posts, and this one especially resonated. I'm an artist as well, and ADORE watercolors, so I immediately pictured your sister painting a wall in rich and mellow colors with areas of white showing through as a part of the whole scene... ah, ahem... yes, well. Your color-word metaphor was an added delight. I would add, however that a RED could be used for emphasis, as well as black and white. We are a mystery group, and red conjures such "shocking" images. :o)

Sheila Deeth said...

Oh, very nice! Lovely metaphor.

Helen Ginger said...

This is really good advice, especially for writers who tend to be very visual. Using your metaphor, a writer could highlight her manuscript and see where she might be too heavy or too light.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Terry Odell said...

Great posts, and a good way to look at things.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

What a wonderful metaphor, Carol. I can paint walls, but never a painting. I do not have the drawing gene.

Elspeth

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great point, Carol!

I can't paint and I'm really, really envious of those who can--this metaphor makes me feel like I'm creating art on a canvas, too. :)

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Carol Kilgore said...

Jackie - Thank you. I'm glad you enjoy coming here. Blood Red, I suppose?

Sheila & Terry - Thanks.

Helen - I never thought of that. I love how you turn my thoughts into action!

Elspeth - I missed that gene, too.

Elizabeth - Like you, I'm green with envy over those who can paint things besides walls.

Kerrie said...

Fabulous metaphor.

Carol Kilgore said...

Thanks, Kerrie.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Great metaphor, especially for me as I'm a visual-to-the-max person. I also sometimes say, "I've been writing so hard, I've run out of words." I wonder if painters run out of color?

Carol Kilgore said...

I don't know if painters run out of color, but I think they have certain colors they prefer and use more than others, the same way writers have words they like.

Laura Eno said...

That's a very interesting metaphor. I love paint-strong, vibrant colors. I'll have to make sure that my verbs are worthy of my artistic sensibilities now. :)

Carol Kilgore said...

Thank you, Laura. Verbs can be as fun as strong colors.