Friday, August 17, 2012

No Coloreds Allowed!

            Well, that title got everyone’s attention real quick, didn’t it?
            Allow me to explain, then feel free to report me...
            When it comes to adjectives, one of the easiest bits of description to drop into writing is colors.  I can tell you I’m sitting here right now on a gray chair wearing a blue shirt and black shorts (there’s a major heat wave going on in Los Angeles right now) and my tan cat is trying to get my attention.
            Now when a lot of us hit that mid-phase in our growth-as-a-writer arc, we start using metaphors for everything.  My shirt isn’t blue, it’s sky-colored.  My shorts are the color of coal.  My cat, Charlie Baltimore, is linen-colored.  Some folks get comfortable at this point of the arc and they’re the ones who tend to use lots and lots of purple prose (color pun not intended, but it works so I’ll go with it).
            The catch, however, is when people develop the habit of describing everything as “colored.”  Even colors.  Which is wrong.
            I’ve seen some folks describe things as red colored, yellow colored, and blue colored.  That’s just silly.  And it’s excess words I could cut.
            Y’see, Timmy, colors are inherently “colored.”  If I tell you my shirt is blue, it’s understood that I mean “my shirt is the color blue.”  So I wouldn’t tell you “my shirt is the color blue colored.” 
            I should never use the word colored with colors.  I shouldn’t have blue-colored sky or green-colored grass.  They’re already colors—what else could they be?  Blue flavored sky?  Green textured grass?  Snip that word and have blue sky and green grass.
            I use colored when I’m making descriptive comparisons.  A girl with strawberry-colored hair can wear a grass-colored dress, for example.  My zombies have chalk-colored eyes.  One draft of Ex-Patriots had Stealth described as “shadow-colored.”
            Use the Find feature and search through your latest work for uses of the word colored.  Make sure it’s being used correctly.  Slash it if it isn’t.
            Next time I may be a bit cramped for time, so you’re either going to get a rant about time bombs or another screenwriter interview (if I’m really up against the wall).  But if I do, I’ll make sure it’s a fun one.  Or, at least, highly controversial. 
            Until then, go write.

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