One day, while lamenting the lack of success of my first young adult novel to a work friend, I wondered aloud how I might make it more accessible to teens and less “adult.” My colleague looked at me on our way out to the parking lot, and said, “More colors.” Such simple, yet wise advice from someone who, although he is a great writer, isn’t particularly interested in writing anything himself.
His point was quite literal. Thanks to videogames, The Internet and Khloe Kardashian, young people respond to the visual and my friend was suggesting that simply by including more colors–saying it was a blue bathrobe, for example, or a red sports car—I could create more visual imagery for my ideal reader to hang his or her hat on.
In my second young adult novel, I heeded his advice from the outset. I not only included much more visual imagery, but focused specifically on adding more colors. And I saw the positive results almost immediately.
But colors need not be restricted simply to the young. Every year I teach William Golding’s Lord of the Flies to my freshman classes which, as I’ve said on more than one occasion, is a bit redundant. But I learned something new about the book during my most recent trip–probably my 15th or 16th journey into Golding’s abyss with the English schoolboys run amok.
I had no idea that Golding used so many colors in his writing. This time through I noticed that, on almost every page, Golding uses color to create a more vivid experience for the reader.
Here are some examples:
Describing the conch shell: “In color the shell was deep cream, touched here and there with fading pink “ (16)
Describing Jack: “Power lay in the brown swell of his forearms “ (150).
Describing the destruction of the conch: “. . .the conch exploded into a thousand white fragments and ceased to exist” (181). And in the same paragraph:
Describing the death of Piggy: “His head opened and stuff came out and turned red” (181).
There are a thousand other examples I could cite, as I said, from nearly every page. I have been sensitive lately to the use of color since heeding my colleague’s advice to add more of it to my own writing. In subsequent drafts of my new young adult novel, I plan to write the word “Colors” at the top of the chapter I’m revising and look for strategic places to add just a splash of color to make the scene more visual, more vivid, and, well, more colorful.