Monday, February 1, 2016

Word Choice: Why 'Red' and I Are No Longer on Speaking Terms

Ah, ‘red,’ you were my first-draft love.  We described Martian dirt together.  We reveled in Martian dust storms.  We even spoke of characters’ hair together.  And buildings.  And rocks.  And mountains.  And looking back, I began to get tired of you.  I realized that you were simply always there.  You became a stalker.  I began to dread seeing you again in my manuscript.  And finally, ‘red,’ I’ve had to ask you to leave altogether.  Don’t come back, or I just may file for a restraining order!

Sometimes there are words of our own that haunt us in a manuscript.  There’s the classic ‘look,’ ‘smile,’ ‘said,’ and others, but what about colors?  As I’m editing my novel (which is set on Mars, if you didn’t catch that from the above paragraph), I’m realizing that I need to add ‘red’ to my list of words to replace or cut—at least, for as long as I’m writing books set on Mars.  I used the word 29 times in the first draft!  So it’s time to get to work. 

Do you overuse a color in your WIP?  I’ve consolidated synonyms for the basic colors from three online thesauruses below.  Just be sure to look them up if they’re new to you; not all of them convey the color itself in the fullest meaning.  Enjoy!  (And ‘red,’ you’ve been replaced!  Well, in most instances, at least.)

bittersweet, bloodshot, blooming, bloomy, blush, brick, burgundy, burning, cardinal, carmine, cerise, cherry, chestnut, claret, cochineal, copper, coral, crimson, dahlia, damask, flame, flaming, florid, flush, flushed, fuchsia, full-blooded, garnet, geranium, glowing, healthy, inflamed, infrared, magenta, maroon, pink, puce, rose, roseate, rosy, rubicund, ruby, ruddy, rufescent, russet, rusty, salmon, sanguine, scarlet, titian, vermeil, vermilion, warm, wine

apricot, bittersweet, cantaloupe, carrot, coral, gilded, ochreous, peach, salmon, tangerine, titian

amber, aurulent, bisque, blond(e), buff, canary, champagne, chrome, citrine, citron, cream, fair, flavescent, flax(en), gold(en), ivory, lemon(y), saffron, sand, tawny, xanthous

acid, apple, aqua, aquamarine, beryl, bice, chartreuse, emerald, fir, forest, grass, jade, kelly, leafy, lime, lush, malachite, moss, pea, peacock, pine, sage, sap, sea, spinach, verdant, verdigris, vert, viridescent, viridian, willow

azure, beryl, cerulean, cobalt, cyan, indigo, lapis lazuli, navy, Oxford, periwinkle, royal, sapphire, saxe, sky, teal, turquoise, ultramarine

amaranthine, amethyst, heliotrope, lavender, lilac, magenta, mauve, mulberry, orchid, periwinkle, perse, plum, pomegranate, violaceous, violet, wine

amber, auburn, bay, beige, biscuit, bister, brick, brindle(d), bronze, brunette, buff, burnt sienna, café au lait, camel, caramel, chestnut, chocolate, cinnamon, cocoa, coffee, copper(y), drab, dun, dust, ecru, fawn, ginger, hazel, henna, khaki, mahogany, mousy, mushroom, nut, ochre, puce, russet, rust, sepia, snuff, sorrel, tan, tanned, tawny, terra-cotta, toast, umber

charcoal, clouded, coal, dark, dingy, ebony, gray/grey, inklike, inky, jet, murky, obsidian, onyx, pitch, raven, sable, shadowy, slate, sooty, starless

achromatic, alabaster, ashen, blanched, bleached, bloodless, chalky, clear, colorless, faded, faint, fair, frosted, ivory, light, lucent, milky, neutral, pale, pallid, pasty, pearly, snowy, transparent, wan, washed-out, waxen

(The best site for colors by far was  The other two sites only had a few of the colors each!)