Monday, 8 October 2012


Ah yes, but what shade/tint/hint of/hue of blue? The cool, watery blue of the sky on a cold, cloudless winter day? Or something darker - navy merging with purple perhaps?

I've often wondered if The Scarlet Pimpernel would have grasped the public's attention and been so lauded had it been called, simply, The Red Pimpernel? And take Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (or is that Dwarves?). Is there any white as pure as freshly-fallen snow? Milk White and the Seven Dwarfs wouldn't have cut it, would it?
And how about Fifty Shades of Old Army Blanket anyone?

I imagine you might be thinking here that I am obsessed with colour? Well, you wouldn't be far wrong.
I have a junior school teacher - one, Miss Yelland - to thank for that. It was the time when we were all doing practice 11+ papers for the exams that would seal our secondary school fates. Day after day we worked on those papers. Then Miss Yalland said we could write a story instead one morning. Theme of our choice, but it had to include a colour.
I'd always loved writing stories and was - trumpet-blowing here - good at it and always got top marks. I wrote a story called 'Pamela and the green dress'. So, when Miss Yelland called me to the front of the class waving my three sheets of lined paper with my pencil-written story on them, I thought it was for more praise.
But no.
"Green, Linda?" she said. "Boring green? I would have given you 8/10 for this story had it not been for your use of the word 'green', but I'm going to mark you down because of it. So boring, dear, when there are so many wonderful shades from which to choose. Emerald, Chartreuse. Sage,. Grass even."
On and on the words came, like a river of jewels washing over me.
That short, sharp, lesson stuck.
I've had over 300 short stories published now and as you might imagine colour - be it clothes, or sky, or shoes, or hair, or whatever - has featured in all of them.
It can be a challenge to find an interesting way to describe a blonde, for example. I do my best to avoid corn-coloured, and bottle-blonde. It's not easy coming up with something that little bit different that will catch an editor's eye, but I think it has to be done.
That said, I don't have a bottomless pit of colour variations in my head. And so I cheat. I pick up paint charts whenever I'm in a DIY store. Paint manufacturers have a wonderful way with words to describe their wares.
I'll take 'yellow' from one of them I have here on my desk. (You don't want to see my desk! It's a mess, but I know where everything is, honest.)
Wordsworth's daffodil. Iced citrus. Wild primrose. Bitter lemon. Honeygold. Sun-ripened straw.
If I need inspiration for my heroine's crowning glory (or my hero's) then I take a walk down the hair colour aisles in Boots or wherever and I'm spoilt for choice.
A rifle through the liptstick display is another source of ideas. I have a dear friend whose signature lipstick colour is Fabby Fuchsia. She'd look wrong in anything else to be honest, and I'm sure that in your mind's eye you can see those pouty lips and the exact shade on them.
Or how about the wacky descriptions you find on bottles of nail polish? My favourite is Plumptious Plum.
Magenta - a colour I love to wear because it lifts my spirits - is our gift from the printing industry, manaufactured as it was to make colour-printing possible.
So, dear friends, a little wander throught the rainbow - in which my favourite colour/shade/tint/hint of/.hue just has to be indigo.


  1. Love it Linda! And now I feel v. guilty as I'm sure I use the boring blue/green etc far too much and don't try for those wonderful descriptive words you have there. Some great ideas.

  2. Thanks,'s just my little soapbox really....:)

  3. Great post, Linda. I enjoyed the anecdote about your teacher and boring green - these lessons, humbling at the time, stay with us for always, don't they? I shall pick up some decorating charts for future reference and the names of hair colour dyes is a very good idea. Thanks for passing on your tips.

  4. My pleasure,Mary....glad to have been of use...:)

  5. What a thought provoking post Linda, and what great suggestions. Instead of walking past the counters in Boots I shall now pause to look with new eyes and a lot more interest, and you will be in my thoughts.

  6. Great post, Linda - I love those suggestions and the reminder to look beyond the boring. I remember that 11+ exam!

  7. Thanks so much, Gwen and glad I put this up now...:)

  8. I am colour blind when it comes to certain colours - blue, grey and beige, for example all look the same to me. I used to argue with friends about the colour of their clothes - not realising I was seeing things differently.
    My favourite colour is emerald green - it makes me happy. Fascinating blog, Linda, as always.

  9. Lovely to find you popping by Guernsey Girl.....glad you like the post..:)

  10. Great blog Linda. I use paint charts too - hadn't thought of the hair-colour aisles though! Brilliant.

  11. Great post, Linda! Will have to have a trip to the DIY store very soon I think :)