Do you use a lot of color terms in your writing? Do you do it with a purpose?
Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan the Cimmerian, often used “black” in his fantasy and horror fiction. Some say he used it too often, but when you read his stories you don’t really notice the frequency of the word, you notice the mood the word helps create.
Howard also used shades of red a lot. I use them as well, partially because I write horror and adventure fiction and there’s always the color of blood to describe. Of course, words like dark and black and shadow appear in horror fiction a lot as well. As do their opposites, such as pale and pallid and white.
The proper use of color in fiction depends much on the environment/setting as well. In the summer woods you will have prominent greens and browns and grays, with only wisps of other colors. In the desert there will be sandy tans and, possibly, pale pinks and reds and oranges. If your work features skies and oceans, then certain colors follow naturally. If you are trying to create a sense of exotica, then exotic colors may help. Think about the strange colors of the foods and plant life that you see on many episodes of the original Star Trek.
Color is a powerful subjective experience for most people. If used carefully it can suggest much without weighing your prose down with multiple adjectives.
Do you have a color or colors that you depend on a lot in your own work? For me it’s probably black and red. If you do have a writing “color,” is it the same as your favorite color in the real world? My favorite colors are the dark reds, tending toward the maroons.
Let me close with a short list of some of the more interesting color terms available to writers. At least in my opinion.
Aeruginous bluish green like copper rust
Amaranth dark purplish red
Amethyst purple or violet
Cinereous ash gray
Cinnabar brilliant red
Cyan dark blue-green
Fuchsin purplish red
Fulvous dull reddish brown, brownish yellow, or tawny
Gules red as referred to in heraldry
Indigo a deep violet blue
Lapis Lazuli azure-blue
Lavender pale purple
Magenta purplish red
Mauve delicate purple
Niveous the color of snow
Ochre dark yellow
Onil a deep violet blue (indigo)
Puce brownish purple
Russet yellowish brown or reddish brown
Saffron orange yellow
Sepia dark reddish brown
Taupe brownish gray
Umber raw = yellowish brown, burnt - reddish brown
Vermeil scarlet vermilion
Vermilion brilliant red or scarlet
Violet bluish purple
Xanthous yellow or yellowish