No lie. I spent several hours creating a chart of textures, and another of colors.
Because I'm a writer and I can write it off as a work expense. Okay, not really, but I can pass it off as required workplace maintenance in order to do my work projects efficiently. Okay, that's a stretch, too.
In my WIP (working title Simi), Simi has a thing for textures. She touches trees, cloths, yarns, anything she walks past. She also is a weaver, mixing together colors and helping her sister and other neighbors dye. Because she could have any number of different blue skeins, or red ones, or purple ones, she has names for them all. (Also, I can't just say blue or dark purple every few pages.) So the solution is to use sky or lavender or peach, right?
The first problem? A peach is not just one color. Look at a peach. It's got yellow, orange, and sometimes a dark reddish-pink. The inside is yellowish. Not really the color we think of as "peach." The second problem? The book's world is based on pre-columbian South America. Peaches came to the Americas with Europeans. Yes, I could always pretend that in my world there are peaches, and most readers won't even think about it, but I want to stick with things native to the region.
So each time I wanted to describe a color, I'd look it up. Try it. "Things that are blue." Lots of results, like sapphire, jeans, USPS drop box, bluebird... Okay, my fantasy world doesn't have USPS. Sapphire is a cliche comparison, and can actually be just about any color. Bluebird is decent. So we get more specific. "Blue animals." Now we have poison dart frogs. They come in various colors, not always blue, but it lives in the right area, and can't you at least picture the vividness?
How about "blue gemstones?" Some aren't helpful (fluorite comes in many colors) but you find aquamarine, azurite, iolite, lapis lazuli, and turquoise in my target region, all various blues, some edging toward green or purple. Search blue flowers, blue foods, blue insects, blue birds, shades of blue, plants that create blue dyes, images of blue things...and one by one you get names you can use for a specific blue. Think creatively. New bruises, snow in shadow, sunrise, summer. Some situations call for more literal color descriptions than others. But isn't "the blue of distant hills" much more interesting than "light blue?"
And, rather than going through the whole search again each time, I finally compiled my results into a list. I searched foods, plants, animals, minerals, anything from the region, and put what I could into my color chart.
It sounds obsessive, but it's actually pretty fun. This must be what it's like to name paints.
Textures were easier. I found a list of 400 words for texture, arranged alphabetically. The hard part was just eliminating ones that weren't quite textures and sorting the rest into categories. Again, it's pretty fun to figure out how to group such a wide array of descriptors.
Did I feel ashes this week to know how to describe them?
I sure did. I don't go camping often, and I definitely never ran my hands through a pile of ashes. But it turned out we have years-old ashes in the wood stove. Ashes look like tiny charcoals, but when you touch them they don't actually have substance. They just crumble into nothing. They hardly even feel like anything. They're pretty cushiony, but the best word for the feeling of them is âelusive.â
What's the weirdest thing you've ever felt? For me, cow udders. Tell me in the comments.