Ever since reading The Silverwing Trilogy by Kenneth Oppel I’ve wondered about the importance of color in books. Oppel wrote the entire book series without mentioning color once. He used descriptive words like “dark,” “bright,” or “dazzling.” He wrote without describing color because bats do not see in color.
I’ve always seen details like that to be what separates good books from great books. Could you write a story about bats and use color? Sure. But a world where bats are the storytellers, there would be no color. But I’m getting off point.
When I read that story, I did not notice that no color descriptions were used. I only realized it when I read the explanation in the back of the book and then went back to re-read some of the passages.
One of my pet-peeves in stories is when the descriptions punch you in the face- usually with color.
“She looked at his face and all he could see were her limpid green eyes. She blushed red and hid her face, looking down at her sparkly silver top. He reached out a masculine, calloused hand and brushed her brown curls away from her porcelain skin.”
Even worse than that are passages that go something like this:
“Sarah anxiously rummaged through her closet looking for something to wear. She rubbed her sweaty palms on her tight, designer blue jeans from Chole and straightened her orange crop-top. She impatiently tossed out her bright pink Herve Leger bandage dress, her vintage black Prada bag, and her mother’s prom dress from the 1980s with pink puffed sleeves.”
I believe descriptions (and even color in some cases) are incredibly important in stories, but listing facts out like a witness statement at a police investigation will bore the reader and jars the reader out of the story. Descriptions are supposed to set a mood or a feeling, not give you every detail of the objects in the room or all physical descriptions of characters all at once. I find that when a lot of colors are used as the only describing words in a book, the writing is choppier and less immersing.
I think a mark of a good writer is one who can convey a universe without color and you don’t notice. Facts are not important to good writing. Impressions are. Writing is the art form of impressionism of the highest order.
Do you agree? Do you prefer books to list descriptions like facts or work more in the style of Kenneth Oppel?