Coloring Your Writing with Words

As a visual merchandiser with a background in interior design, I tend to see the world in a very visually-oriented way. This even applies to my writing. People who have read some of my flash fiction or story snippets often mention they get a strong sense of place and really feel like they are in the settings I write about, and I think my ability to use elements such as color and space to manipulate atmosphere in the physical world really has a lot to do with this!

I’ve been wanting to make a video talking about how our words as writers are as important as colors are to artists and designers; there are so many to choose from and they can really “color” our writing!


This isn’t really a “how to” video so much as it is a reminder for us writers to really pay attention to the words we choose when telling our stories and how we use them—something that’s definitely been on my mind while editing my WIP.

Some of the leading English dictionaries have close to half a million words in them, which is pretty amazing when you think about it! Not to mention, our language is always evolving, as new words and turns of phrases seem to pop up just about each year in everyday use. It can be easy reverting to our personal go-to words to the point where, when we go back and look at our writing, they stand out as being overused. Keeping a thesaurus handy in such instances as well as being mindful of what words we choose to tell our stories with can be helpful. (There are times I know there’s a better word and I can’t remember it; then I search for similar words and am like, “Ah-ha! That’s the one!”)

Anyway, this video is just an exercise in word choice and how the words we choose can be used to create context, subtext, mood, tone, or whatever else we aim to achieve in our stories.

How do you “color your writing?”


On Finding the Right Words

Last week when I wrote “Seduction” I was kind of agonizing over “finding the right words”.  I’m glad most folks thought it worked out, but I actually want to clarify what I really meant when I said this.

It’s nit-picky and you might think I sound perhaps a tad bit obsessive afterwards, lol, but here it goes.

What I Mean By “Finding the Right Words”

It’s kind of hard to explain, but when I write–and especially so with these 100-word shorts–I try to pick words that play off each other and resonate together on a whole.  I aim to create synergy.

With “Seduction” there were a few words I kept debating whether to use like “advanced”, “lost” and “stepped”.  It sounds silly but I spent a good half hour going back and forth between alternatives for those three and I’m still not sure if I like those word choices, haha.  For example, with “advanced” I wanted to use “outstretched” instead to contribute to the notion that the mist had arms, of sorts (hinted at, perhaps not so successfully, by the word “tendrils”).  The idea was that the mist wanted to use these arms to “embrace” Madeline with, but I didn’t think “outstretched” was actually compatible with the “breath” imagery I was also using to convey the nature of the mist.  (“Advance” may not be all that compatible, either, but again, this is why I felt iffy about this story–or more like snippet–in the first place.)

That’s how I felt about just one of the three words I mentioned.  I won’t go into the other two, but I hope you can see where I’m going with this.

For me, going back to make sure I’m choosing the right words is almost like trying to tune a string instrument and putting your fingers in the right place so that when you start striking chords or playing songs it vibrates in a way that amplifies all the notes being played.  When a note is in tune and you pluck or otherwise play it, you can actually “feel” it ring clearly through your fingers.  If it’s a little bit flat or sharp, it feels kind of fuzzy.  (I played viola up through the start of college, if you’re wondering where this is coming from.)

I don’t know how else to describe it, but I feel the same way about choosing words that work, or don’t work, well together.  I get my initial impressions and attempts on to the page then go back to “fine-tune” the story so it all works together, hopefully resulting in resonance (on a smaller scale) and synergy (on a whole) when all is said and done.  I don’t always succeed, though I always try to.

Synergy on a Broader Scale

Even with long stories, everything contributes to creating synergy: the characters, settings, themes, events, etc.  I think the more words you put into a story, the harder it gets to practice this consistently.  (It takes a lot of thought!)  I don’t think I could explain how it happens on a whole on the scale of a novel, but choosing the right words seems to play a big role in helping to link all these elements together.

So that’s what I’m learning how to do.  I hope that makes sense.

Do you try to accomplish the same or a similar kind of thing in your stories?

If so, how do you go about it?