Colorful Writing (aka Bad Comparisons)

I got a fun idea a few years ago from a writing conference. A visiting author shared how she sometimes used those paper color strips you get at paint stores for ideas to describe a particular color in a new, fun way. It was her way of jazzing up her writing. So, I tried it. I went to my favorite home improvement store and grabbed a big handful of those colorful little paper strips, brought them home and sat down at my computer.

What I ended up with was not quite what I expected. First of all, most of the names the paint companies use for their paint colors are not anything I’d ever consider using when describing a view of the ocean at dawn, the sky at sunset or the look of someone’s faded jeans. For example, while “gecko” might be a clever way to describe a rather nauseating shade of pale green, I’d certainly never use it to describe the eye color of my main character’s crush. Check out my photo:

“Gecko” does make me think of someone a bit shifty, though–maybe I could use that comparison when describing the beady eyes of whatever bad guy or girl I’m dreaming up. But what about this one?

This is a lovely shade of deep purple, but the descriptor doesn’t quite work for me.  What popped into my head was: “Her dress was a commanding principal purple–it just screamed do what I say or you’ll get detention for a month!”  Ugh.

So, the paint color strips have never worked out well for me as writing tools, but that’s okay. I use them for fun, when creating cards for some of my writing friends.  I enjoy searching out the “best of the worst” paint color names and see what awful comparisons I can come up with. Here are a couple of the bad comparisons I wrote recently, using the following names of shades of paint I found at Home Depot:

“The elderly lunch lady’s skin was as crinkled as a smashed-up paper lunch bag while her one good eye was a watery olive that glared at you while she dumped suspicious gray slop onto your tray.”

Ha! (The italicized words are actual names I got from paint color strips).  Here’s another one:

“His eyes were the color of a grass stain and his fixed gaze was just about as stubborn as that annoying mark you can’t quite wash out of your favorite jeans, no matter how much Oxyclean you use and how many times you curse while scrubbing as hard as you can. Yeah, that kind of stubborn.”

I have lots of fun when I try to come up with awful writing. 🙂  Now, it’s your turn. Here are a couple of fun names of paint colors. Post your own comparison (simile, metaphor, or whatever you want to write) in the comments!  I’d love to see what you come up with.

In case you can’t see the names in the photos: “chocolate cherry, drizzling rain, chalkboard, clothesline fresh, dress blues, cowboy hat.”

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