I Wish More Authors Wrote With Color

No, that isn’t a metaphor. And it isn’t a statement about whitewashing in YA either. I mean actual, literal color.

I think this needs some explaining. When I write my reviews, I assign the book some colors. Not on purpose, really, but I just imagine the book in my head and the first impression/color I get is what it is. Maybe one character is orange, while the other is aqua. The plot might be red, with some hints of pink, or maybe even a streak or two of white. After they get their colors, I assess how those colors make me feel. If a character is orange, they’re a bit fiery, but maybe more controlled than a red character would be. If a character is aqua, then they’re softer, more comforting, and a steady temper. A red plot might mean it’s full of action, but the pink and white indicates that it slows down in some parts.

I know, I know. But it’s the only way I can sort out my feelings sometimes! I don’t always have the words at first, but if I have a color, I know exactly what impressions that color gives me, and I can always put that into words. Usually it translates pretty well when I’m trying to describe a book. Besides reviewing books and writing my blog, this actually applies to the rest of my life. If I want to remember something, I give it a color. Memory recall goes up by 100% after that!

So now that I’ve explained the psychosis I live by, here’s my actual point: I wish more authors would write using color. I wish they would describe their settings and characters with more vibrancy. Often I find that when describing a setting it’s just the basics, maybe they mention that there’s a skyscraper or they’re in the woods. They rely on my previously ingrained images that I may have gleaned from google to fill in the blanks. I don’t want that. I want to see the exact forest that they see! I want to know if the windows are so clean they reflect the blue sky, or if they’re tinted so darkly that they’re nearly black.

Of course the lack of color doesn’t make me automatically hate a book, but when I find one that includes more than normal, I pretty much fall in love. Two really stand out to me as ones that I remember: Angelfall by Susan Ee and White Like Milk, Red Like Blood by Alessandro D’Avenia. Angelfall had a setting that was just vivid – everything was described in detail, using a million colors, from the forest to the sky, and the angels’ aerie was flawless. White Like Milk, Red Like Blood focused more on the characters, and there were two in particular – Sylvia and Beatrice. Leo, the main character, described Sylvia as blue like the ocean, and Beatrice was red like her fiery hair. Sylvia was calm, steady, and peaceful, and a hidden quiet force, while Beatrice was bright and extroverted, shining like a flame.

Both those books really sucked me in, because it was written like I think! I didn’t have to adapt to someone else’s way of thinking; I just slipped right in like I was home. It’s the greatest feeling when I find a book written with color. And I really wish I could find more authors who write that way!

So now that I’ve exposed my crazy sauce, let’s turn the tables on you. Do you like books written with lots of detail and colors? Do you understand at all what I’m trying to say? What writing styles do you feel most comfortable reading? 

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29 thoughts on “I Wish More Authors Wrote With Color

  1. That sounds a bit like synesthesia. I don’t really know too much about it, but it applies to people who hear colors or taste sounds, and sometimes people associate colors with letters or words, I think. Quite interesting!

    As for books, you might want to look for books with protagonists who are painters or otherwise visual people. I just read a book called The Anatomist’s Wife where the narrator was a painter, and she focused a lot on what people were wearing, how rooms were decorated, and using colors to set the mood of the scene. It took me awhile to figure out she was looking at everything that way *because* she was a painter, but when I clicked it was really great.

    • I remember that term from psychology! It’s definitely an interesting concept – I’ll have to do a bit of research 😀

      And that’s a great idea! Even if the author isn’t inherently descriptive by their own nature, if they have an artist character that would change things.

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  3. This is such an interesting perspective! The thing is, I also love books that just describe and use imagery and can just write so artfully and beautifully – but I have never thought of it as “writing in colour”.
    But, I know I personally link sounds with things I want to remember – and when I catch a great description (or “colour”) I always say them out loud ’cause I need to hear it to appreciate it. I guess that’s sort of the same thing?
    And if I had to give an example of a book that did that for me – Delirium and Before I Fall (or anything by Lauren Oliver, really. I just love how she writes).

  4. I completely agree; I definitely love me some color in story-telling. And of course, it’s so much better when it’s a more detailed sort of color – “sunset orange” from Catching Fire comes to mind, but there are so many other examples.
    Basically, the more vividly a book allows me to imagine it, the better.

  5. Haha, I remember you mentioning this in a comment you made on my blog 😛 Anyways. I love it when authors use colors to paint a picture (no pun intended) of their world and characters. I also have a bit of a strange love for strange metaphors and similes (except for in Shatter Me. The metaphors and similes weirded me out in that one).

  6. I like vivid descriptions too, but the thing about books that really sucks me in the characters and plot, and not much of the description. I can’t really force mental imagery in my head. It’s not my strongest suit.

    But I do notice that authors don’t really use colors much. I sympathize with you (even
    though descriptions really aren’t my thing).

  7. I’m not sure if you’d love the book The Yellow Eye of Crocodiles, but I think you should check out the first chapter if you get a chance. It began with a scene description that gave me a more vivid, complete mental image than nearly anything else I’ve read. And the author used a number of vibrant colors in her description too 🙂

  8. I don’t know that I’ve ever thought about this before, but now that I am, I’m having a hard time remembering a book where things were described in color. Which is funny, because how else am I supposed to visualize everything? Like you said, I guess most author’s are relying on my pre-existing ideas of what a “forest” or the “sky” look like.

    I haven’t read The Book Thief, but in the movie, she was asked to describe the sky during a particularly snowy day and she used color to do it! (After a quick Google search, color is quite symbolic in the book. Death describes the sky at one point as yellow, “like burning newspaper.”)

  9. Kayla, this sounds VERY familiar and quite a lot like perhaps you have some synesthesia going on! I LOVE IT!! I thoroughly, heartily, and enthusiastically encourage you to start adding these colors to your book reviews so that I can see them!!!

    And as for your main point: yes, I agree. I feel like a lot of YA books I’ve read recently just kind of skimp out in the description department, and it makes me sad. I suppose it does make a very vibrant book even more satisfying, but why can’t ALL books be more vivid?

    Some books that had very vivid color imagery for me were: The Girl of Fire and Thorns series, The Lunar Chronicles series, Crewel, and These Broken Stars. ❤

    • You’re the second to mention synthesesia – I’ll have to look into it! And I’ll see what I can do to add them in 😀

      I’m so glad to hear Crewel is like that, because I have that book on my shelf and have been planning to read it soon! I agree with you about These Broken Stars; it was a lot more vivid than usual.

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