(What If? Exercise: Read the description here.)
The wind carried the little seeds into a gray field.
There they landed, in the middle of the grass.
Days and nights of sun and rain passed.
Until at last, the first sprouts appeared.
One by one, bright flowers blossomed.
Soon, the field was alive.
Grays turned to colors.
A beautiful sight.
This piece is based on What If? Exercise 93: “Ten to One”. The exercise is to write a 55-word story in which the first sentence has ten words, the second has nine, etc., until the last sentence has only one word. The objective is to show that precision and thrift in writing can produce surprisingly powerful results. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!
Back to the story
Yellow sunbeams dancing
Green meadows stretching far and wide
Indigo birds singing sweet songs
Violet shadows looming
Red roses spread their petals
As they softly bloom at dawn.
The orange daffodils
Brighten up the well-kept lawn.
The yellow daisies smile
At the golden morning sun
From the green grass where they blossomed
In the midst of summer fun.
The blue forget-me-nots
Shine like stars amid the trees,
While the lavenders and violets
Spread sweet scents along the breeze.
Pink orchids grace the days
With their beauty like a kiss,
And white lilies bless the evenings
With a charm of peace and bliss.
So step into my garden
Full of yellows, reds and blues,
Where the colors of the flowers
Paint a rainbow just for you.
When it comes to creative writing, there are plenty of sources of inspiration out there. Several of them have been featured here on my blog, from books to music to video games. But one particularly beautiful source of inspiration that I have yet to discuss is visual art.
So today, I’d like to explore the inspiration that visual works of art can provide for creative writing. How can art composed of images become fruit for art composed of words? Enjoy!
Worth a Thousand Ideas
Visual art is arguably the “most universal” art medium. It comes in many forms: drawings, paintings, photography, sculptures, etc. They can come in a vast array of colors or a monochromatic spectrum from black to white. They can be amateur pieces created for fun or professional-quality works on display in the finest galleries in the world. But one thing they all have in common is that they were each born from an idea. If you think about it, doesn’t that make them a sort of “writing with images”?
Similar to creative writing, a work of visual art can start as one idea that grows into a whole network of connected thoughts, stories, possibilities, all waiting to be discovered by the artist’s audience. These can prove especially inspirational to writers, as the quality of our work relies on our ability to create images in our readers’ minds the same way that visual artists create images for their viewers’ eyes. So the next time you feel stuck in your writing, why not try to draw ideas from the beauty within a visual piece?
Gaze into the Mona Lisa‘s eyes and try to imagine what she’s thinking. Mentally reassemble the shapes of an abstract work into something concrete. Improvise a scene based on your favorite photograph. Write a poem based on the emotions evoked by the colors in a classic painting. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then challenge yourself to see how many of them you can fit into a story. You never know what ideas may be hidden in a visual work until you look for them!
Visual art is a beautiful means of expression that can spark all sorts of other wonderful forms of art. Just a brief look is often enough to get our creativity flowing. But what happens when you create visual art yourself?
From Drawings to Words
When I was in high school, I would sometimes find my mind wandering in the middle of class. To pass the time, I would draw the occasional doodle in my textbook. Most of these drawings consisted of wings, dolphins, and horses, with a wolf and a tiger thrown into the mix for good measure. I’ll be the first to admit that they weren’t very good, but those drawings, however distracting they were from schoolwork, actually taught me a few interesting things about myself: I love animals, I love movement, and I wish I could fly. And from then on, I applied all those facts to my writing.
If you were to look back through all the Friday posts on my blog, you’d probably notice that most of my stories feature animals and other non-human characters. I’ve written a poem about what I would do if I had wings, and one of my most popular creative writing posts is about how to write for animal characters. Even a look through my novel ideas would reveal a pattern of bird motifs. Though drawing was never my strong suit, it did give me plenty of ideas for my creative writing, and for that I’ll always appreciate it as one of the many invaluable sources of inspiration for my true artistic passion.
So even if it’s not your forte, I strongly recommend giving visual art a chance. Draw, paint, take photos, anything that can jumpstart the creative part of your mind. The ideas you find in your art may become the inspiration for your next big written work. And if you’re lucky, you may discover something beautiful about yourself along the way. Good luck, and thanks for reading!
Today’s post is dedicated to my grandmother, whose lovely work in Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden coloring book served as the illustrations for this article. Happy Birthday, Grandma! I love you!
I love colors. I’ll say it over and over again: I love colors! They’re beautiful. They’re stimulating. Sometimes I even think they’re magical. I love everything about them, from the power they have to evoke emotions to the subtle yet distinct differences they make in a work of art. But my favorite thing about colors is their symbolism, the way they can be used to hide secrets and hint at details of a bigger picture without drawing focus away from the story at hand.
It’s simple enough to use colors in visual art, but what about in writing? Challenging as it may seem, I believe it is possible to create symbolism with words, such as when describing color schemes of character outfits and settings. Color symbolism has fascinated me for as long as I can remember, and while it would take an entire book (or series of books) to get into it all, I’d like to at least scratch the surface today with some of the basics I’ve picked up throughout my experience researching and implementing meaningful colors in my stories. You may want to consider these tips the next time you set a scene; they can help add a vivid new layer to your story! Enjoy!
Red – Red is a bold and passionate color, often symbolizing such strong ideas and images as courage, fire, power, and violence. It’s a color that demands attention, which is why it’s commonly used to signify danger. Use red for passionate or aggressive characters, or for any sort of intense scene, whether it’s the heat of love or the violence of war.
Orange – Not quite passionate and not quite joyful, orange is a middle ground between red and yellow. It symbolizes energy and creativity, and is used in psychology to stimulate enthusiasm and determination. Use orange for adventurous or creative characters, or when you want to paint some vibrant warmth into a scene.
Yellow – Yellow is the two-sided coin of colors. On the one hand, it symbolizes happiness, optimism, sunshine, and friendship. On the other hand, it can also stand for cowardice, illness, hazard, and deceit. Golden shades represent wealth and luxury. Use yellow when you want to add hints of joy or caution to a scene. For the best effect, I recommend using yellow ambiguously, such as for characters who seem jubilant and optimistic on the outside but who are fearful or deceitful on the inside.
Green – Think of green and you’re sure to picture beautiful scenes of nature, complete with lush vegetation as far as the eye can see. Indeed, green is the color of the environment, and it represents such ideas as youth, fertility, health, and rebirth. Abstractly, it also symbolizes jealousy and good luck. Use green for characters associated with natural themes such as environmentalism or the practice of healing, or to hint at fortune or envy in relationships.
Blue – Blue is my favorite color because it represents all my favorite things. It’s a color that symbolizes intelligence, tranquility, trust, and loyalty. In nature, it’s associated with the sky and the sea, and different shades from turquoise to navy can be used to signify sophistication, knowledge, and integrity. Use blue for characters who are more intellectual than emotional, and for settings fitting an atmosphere of calm and authority.
Purple – Purple is the color of royalty, and has long represented such themes as nobility, wisdom, honor, and extravagance. Being a relatively rare color in nature, it is often associated with mystery and magic. Lighter shades such as lavender also convey grace and elegance. Use purple as a motif for regal or arrogant characters, mysterious settings, and storylines brimming with fantasy.
Pink – A soft complement to the bold red, pink is the color that most famously signifies love and romance. Strongly associated with femininity, it represents tenderness, caring, and acceptance. I myself tend to associate the color pink with flowers. Use pink to add a soothing or feminine quality to a scene, or to signify elements of a romantic subplot.
Brown – Brown is well known as an earth tone, and as such tends to represent stability. Common ideas associated with the color brown include simplicity, comfort, and endurance. Use brown when you want to convey a sense of plainness or tenacity in a scene without having to resort to the blatant dullness of gray.
Gray – The dull middle ground between white and black, gray is most commonly associated with boredom and depression. On the positive side, it also stands for security, modesty, practicality, and reliability. Use gray for conservative characters or when you want to create a colorless air for a particular setting.
White – White is the international color of peace, and is often regarded as a symbol of light, purity, and faith. Some even go as far as to associate it with perfection. Note that white takes on a different meaning in Eastern cultures, where it’s associated with death and mourning. Use white when you want to convey innocence in your characters and cleanliness in your settings, or when you want to create strong religious symbolism in your scenes.
Black – The exact opposite of white, black represents everything that its counterpart doesn’t. Darkness, evil, and death are themes commonly associated with black, but it can also stand for austerity, formality, style, and sexuality. Arguably the most powerful color of all, black has a long history of symbolizing strongly opposed ideas on the spectrum of good and evil. Use black to convey depth in your characters or to add dark themes to a scene. For best results, combine it with other colors to create interesting contrasts of ideas in your stories.
I hope you’ve enjoyed exploring the symbolism of color with me, and that you’ve picked up a few hints along the way! Have fun experimenting with the colors in your stories! Good luck, and thanks for reading!
Do you use color symbolism in your stories? Which colors are your favorites?
References and Further Reading