Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 6, 2016

Coloring Your Manuscripts

erikaphoto-45Erika Wassall the Jersey Farm Scribe here with

Coloring Your Manuscripts

Does anyone else completely love coloring?  It’s such a peaceful activity.  There is just something about the feel of those crayons against the uniquely textured coloring book paper.  It soothes me.

I’ve bought those adult coloring books, with the fancy designs and the crisper, cleaner looking paper. And while that can be enjoyable, it doesn’t have the same appeal.  I need the cheap, almost fibrous paper to REALLY get effect.

And thanks to Crayola, the color choices allowed for so much expression. Maybe I wanted a polka dot sky, well then gosh darn it, I was gonna have one!  If you gave the same coloring book page to a classroom of children, no two would come back the same.  It’s quite brilliant really.

So what does this have to do with writing? We’ll talk about two ways:

1) Color Psychology

Colors do more than just paint a visual picture, they have emotions that are naturally connected to them as well. Now, obviously there are exceptions, but in general, our brains have pre-set interpretations of many of the primary colors, due to a combination of things from social implications, cultural beliefs and perhaps even in-born natural conceptions.

Marketing companies use it all the time. Red means “HANG ON THERE!”, orange means “PAY ATTENTION”.  Check out how many warnings or in-store ads use these colors to get you to stop in your tracks while walking by.  Green and baby blue are often calming.  Yellow tends to bring out our emotions or makes us think or even smile.

Neat, huh?

The subconscious reactions to color can make them powerful tools in a manuscript. Choose carefully what colors you use and be sure they amplify the underlying meaning or mood you’re going for in that scene.

Colors paint pictures. So we probably already use them to give visual power to our scenes or to intensify our descriptions.  But lately I’ve been asking myself… am I using these colors to their full potential?

I went back through a section of a manuscript and looked at every color I used. Then I asked myself… does this color represent the mood or message I want the reader to feel?  If it doesn’t, is there something else I can describe that might be more powerfully aligned with my meaning?

Instead of describing the crispy blue sky, which could bring a feeling of strength, perhaps I could have described a red glare cutting through the air to enhance a feeling of intensity and youthful unpredictability.

We often do this naturally, but when I’m aware of it, I am able to go back and really think about my color choices, to heighten their relevance in that scene, or even as foreshadowing of another. And the more I do this, the more I use them regularly in my writing.  Our world is full of color.  Why shouldn’t our manuscripts be drizzled with the same?

2) Color-Boarding Your Characters

In reading up on color psychology for this article, I came across another interesting idea. When sketching out characters, whether you write actually bios or just round the character out over and over in your mind, try assigning them a color.

This article really caught my eye by Gabriela Pereira over at True Colors: Using Color Theory to Boost Your Writing

As a past graphic designer and product manager and now a writer, she knows a thing or two about color. She suggests actually taping a color sample to your character bio so you can always see it.

I really love this idea! I absolutely can see it having a real effect on bringing my character to life both on the pages and in my mind.  Contrasting characters can have contrasting colors… or maybe they’re really not as contrasted as one would think!  There is a lot of room for playing and having fun here.  So far it’s been a real creative juicer for me.

So play with color, color your writing and bring to life your characters your scenes and your story.

Because your manuscripts… are worth it!


Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Look for Erika’s articles every other Wednesday on Writing and Illustrating. Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Wonderful article Erika! An aspect of writing that I was aware of… But so happy to be reminded.


  2. This is wonderful advice. Thank you for the tips!


  3. Interesting – I thought this was going to be about coloring parts of your manuscript for revision, but you surprised me. Great idea to think of colors for your characters.


  4. I find it interesting how people are drawn to certain colors…me to yellow for instance…what does that say about our character and how does that inform our writing consciously or unconsciously. Thanks for this fun idea to add to character development.


  5. Cool idea!


  6. Thanks for all the great comments! I’m so glad this struck you guys in the same way it struck me! 🙂


  7. Refreshing idea. Thanks so much.


  8. Erika, love how you tied in color as it pertains to writing. Great post. 🙂


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