Writers are wordsmiths. We not only choose our palette, but we also must describe with nuance and subtlety. We craft something new out of the same stuff that generates pharmaceutical commercials and memes with misplaced apostrophes.
Writing is, for the most part, a solitary occupation. There’s going to come a time when someone’s supposed to read what we write. It’s obviously better to iron out issues before submitting our work to a potential agent, publisher, publication, and, most importantly, readers.
Last week I submitted a chapter to my writer’s group and, other than a few minor problems, my fellow writers didn’t have much to criticize. Except…
Except I had apparently used the words “red” and “white” dozens of times without variation. I didn’t notice it until other writers pointed it out. I would not say that I blushed crimson, but my face did go a bit pink. I mean, I was obviously going somewhere with my color imagery, but no one wants to read a short chapter and see certain words repeated 8, 10, even 12 times.
Until other writers had the chance to read my work and tell me about it, I wasn’t conscious of the repetition. I am so thankful that they pointed out this glaring problem.
I appreciated their help, and I let them know. Two people in the group actually gave me lists of synonyms. I accepted them gratefully. This is not the first time I benefited from assistance from other writers, and it won’t be the last.
There is such thing as a thesaurus, of course. In addition, I can look at Grumbacher oil paint sets or catalog descriptions for further research. There are even a few color thesauri for writers online, including Ingrid Sundberg’s Color Thesaurus and Reference for Writers, The Color Thesaurus.
I even verified my memory of the Square Pegs clip–the one with Jennifer discussing her unique ability to name nail polish colors,”You know like intense red, très red, and very red.” (Okay, that was procrastination.)
Like any exercise with the Thesaurus, though, I have to be cognizant of connotation. And get a little help from my writer’s circle.