Using Colour in Creative Writing   Leave a comment


The following advice and list of colours are extracts from the book ‘Writing with Stardust’ and the accompanying workbook by Liam O’ Flynn. For much more of these types of posts, please check out my new book Writing with Stardust by clicking the book title or image.

There are also 4 posts on Autumn at the end of the blog, from Levels 1-4. They might make it clearer on how to use the 5 senses in your writing. I hope you enjoy the post.



In this book, every colour in the grids is preceded with an adjective. It is up each individual, whether student or teacher, parent or lover of English, to make their judgement on this. In my opinion, an effective simile is just as devastating as a colour with an adjective. For example, it would be wonderful if a child wrote a battle scene that included the following lines:

“The sky was as black as an abyss. Underneath the starless sky, the faces of the soldiers were as white as a winter’s moon”.

Unfortunately, very few students are capable of this.

In the hints given in the ‘Narrative Styles’ section, reference was made to a painting. That is what a student should be encouraged to think about. Every planned page of descriptive writing can be seen as a blank canvas to be filled in. In time, the teacher or parent will find their child will start using a contrast of colours naturally. For a battle scene this might include: mercury-red blood, a bat-black sky and nickel-silver armour. For an essay on spring, it might include: an electric-blue river, a nut-brown forest and a paradise-green field. The student is now using figurative language. These metaphors will inject any piece of writing with the sprinkling of stardust needed for a better grade.

Underneath is a list of colours to help you get started. These are just some of the colours from the ‘Writing with Stardust’ workbook.



          10  basic reds       10 advanced reds     10 glittering golds
berry-red balefire-red Arc-of-Covenant gold
blood-red brazier-red aureolin-gold
bonfire-red brimstone-red beeswax-gold
claret-red carbuncle-red chrome-gold
crimson-red conflagration-red flaxen-gold
devil-red crematorium-red fulvous-gold
devil flame-red crucifixion-red gamboge-gold
devil blood-red damask-red harpstring-gold
dragon blood-red firebrand-red honeycomb-gold
dragon flame-red firedrake-red honeydew-gold


1. Her sugar plum lips were berry-red and had a silky gloss. LIPS

2. The autumn leaves were gleaming in dragon flame-red. AUTUMN LEAVES

3. Her hair was brazier-red and tumbled around her swan’s neck. HAIR

4. The night sky was glowing in firedrake-red, a shepherd’s delight. DUSK

5. The sun was glinting like a shiny sovereign of aureolin-gold. SUN


10 basic whites 10   advanced whites 10   greys
angel-white albata-white ash-grey
Arctic-white albino-white argil-grey
bleach-white albumen-white cenotaph-grey
bone-white aldrin-white cinder-grey
dough-white archangel-white clay-grey
dove-white beluga-white flint-grey
fang-white bleached-bone white goose-grey
flour-white cadaverous-white grate-grey
goose-white calcite-white granite-grey
hailstone-white calico-white gravel-grey
halo-white crystalline-white gravestone-grey


1. The snow was crunchy and angel-white and detonated like Christmas crackers when I trod on it. SNOW

2. The old man’s hair was Arctic-white and his face was faded like parchment. OLD MAN

3. The vampire had cadaverous-white skin and blood-flecked eyes. VAMPIRE

4. Her teeth were a gleaming, calcite-white and she had luminous skin. TEETH

5. The clouds were cinder-grey and spat out dreary darts of rain. CLOUDS


Using colour in a passage of writing enriches it like no other technique can. The sentences come alive for the reader and by combining it with sound (onomatopoeia), you are catapulting them into your world. Here is a sample of what can be achieved when the 5 senses are combined in one paragraph. These are from ‘Writing with Stardust’ and they are Levels 1-4 from the ‘Autumn’ chapter.



                                       LEVEL 1: BASIC SENTENCES

  1. The ember-red leaves of autumn burn slowly. COLOUR
  2. The huffing wind was too lazy to scatter the leaves. UNUSUAL WIND VERBS
  3. Clouds form like puffy plates. METAPHORS FOR THE CLOUDS
  4. The leaves are a-flame in a quilt of colour. ARCHAIC WORDS FOR AUTUMN
  5. We enjoy chomping on blackcurrants. AN AUTUMN FEAST
  6. The fiery-reds cast a rich hue on the forest. COLOURS USING HEAT
  7. The ghost-grey skies of autumn change the mood. OTHER IMAGES FOR AUTUMN
  8. Autumn is a time to be afraid. SENSATION
  9. A larder of aromas drizzled from the trees. SMELL
  10. The wild berries had a savoury taste. TASTE


                                     LEVEL 2: A BASIC PARAGRAPH

The leaves were molten-red. The yawning wind made them shiver slightly. Fluffy fleeces of cloud passed over the forest. The trees were a-flicker like night lights. A group of children were gulping on wild gooseberries. The blazing-brown dome of leaves gave off a nice glow. Owls haunted and hunted through moon-splashed trees. We were spooked by their swivelling heads and lamp round eyes. A perfumery of scents hazed through the forest. The ravishing taste of freshly baked bread stayed in our memories.



The barbecue-red leaves hang silently on the trees. Muffling winds deaden all sound in the forest and slow the billowy bells of cloud. The oak leaves are still a-light, but barely. Dainty noses, sniffling and snuffling, glow the same mercury-red as the trees. They replace the sound of children slobbering over elderberries.

Fog-tinted fairy trees stand alone in fields, noosed by coils of dragon breath. A weak pitter-patter is heard, but it is not the sound of children’s feet. It is the centuries-old, hissing drip of raindrops in caves. Spiders flood the forest, clutching their snare strings tightly, their eyes a-glitter with hatred. Owl-light replaces daylight as autumn comes to a close. The seething energy of the forest becomes vow-silent as promises to nature are kept. The burnt-red leaves turn a smouldering-gold as the first of the heavy rains fall.

The rain drenches everyone. They are not the soft, sodden, swollen raindrops of summer. They are not the light, aerated mizzling of spring showers. They are plump, pregnant with moisture, ploppy and destructive. The long, straight streaks of cloud we call mare’s tails do not carry them. The skies are damnation-black and churning with anger. There is a cataclysm coming. It is time for daunting winter to display his wares.

The hotchpotch of aromas that graced the air is gone. The delectable, marchpane taste of the autumn harvest has faded from the palate. When the first snowfall comes, the world will be mummified in a powdery silence. It is time to be afraid again.

                                     LEVEL 4: COMPLEX SENTENCES

Autumn is alien. The season of bumper harvests and swaying hay is soon replaced by Hallowe’en and horror. It is a portal to a time of dread, when winter’s suffocating skies throttle the land. At its most glorious, autumn is spectacular. The world is a-blaze in its fiery cloak of colours, from incandescent-red to lightning-gold. Then both leaf-flame and field-light burn bright one last time, ‘ere fading into the dying embers of their memory. The pyrotechnic show is over. The lifeless smell of monotoned winter invades the air.

Autumn starts with edibles exploding from the crackly mattress of the floor. Above them, the leaves become conflagration-red. It is the signal for ripened berries to fall from weary bushes. They make a phut-phut-phut sound as they hit the ground. Bronzed nuts, unhinged by the wheezing wind, go thunk-thunk-thunk as they fall like scattered gunshot.

The forest becomes an Abraham’s bosom for a few brief months. As the nights turn chill, the urge for food is rekindled. The sound of animals masticating on nuts and slurping on berries fills the forest one last time. Then they delve, dig and disappear in order to escape the coming onslaught. Clouds fill up the sky like vaporous veils, intent on causing mischief. The canopy of the trees is still a-smoulder, but it won’t last long. The sweltering-oranges, riot-reds and burning-yellows will soon fade. The waxing moon and the waning sun vie for supremacy. The sun, Gods daystar, is as luminous as his left eye. The moon, his night star, is as phosphorescent as his right.

Eventually, the moon wins the timeless battle of the ages. The molten-gold sheets of summer light turn into despairing fingers of moonlight. They poke through the trees rather than drown the forest’s floor. The straining light of the autumn moon creates a dome of soft glow above the trees. This lends an eerie glamour to their death sleep. The wind dies with the tree-fire on occasion, creating a terrible silence. There is no insect-hum, no leaf-rustle, no wind-music. The winged symphony of birdsong no longer rings out. In the rivers, the spawning salmon starve and die. The last dragonfly whirrups and flutters, his wings a-glirr in that magical space between river and mist. He too must die. It is the tragedy and the glory of the cycle of life.

Hallowe’en creeps up with sinister intent. Scallions still grow in the forest, but rapscallions come out at night. Jack-o’- lanterns leer at passers-by like fiery poltergeists. Visions of bogeymen and doom-witches steal into dreams. Accursed sounds lacerate the night sky and strange shapes enter the realm of the forest. Creaking trees become wailing banshees and screeching ghouls spill out of windy bottles. Phantom-eyed owls hoot and haunt the night, ghosting through moon-stained trees. Deadly nightshade, lethal larkspur and poison hemlock burgle through the forest’s floor. There’s sorcery afoot, an alien and arcane hex that prowls and poisons the land. It is easy to become unmanned by it all. The mackerel skies of autumn, fringed with halogen-green and laced with lagoon-blue, give way to the claustrophobic skies of winter.

The smorgasbords of scents that have whirled around the forest are all gone. The toothsome treats of autumn are locked up in larders so mankind can survive the winter. Sly shadows return to the land. Wizened faces peep nervously from condensation-veiled windows. Doors are locked, kettles hiss, and fires splutter and cackle in cold grates once more. Parchment-faded faces puff on their pipes and mutter about the coldest winter in aeons approaching. The fading sunlight gasps its last, moulded-gold breath and turns pale until the first daffodils bloom again.

All living things seem to shrink into themselves, shrivelling and withering. There is a Reckoning coming of Dante-esque proportions. Winter’s frigid fist is clenching and the last dragonfly seems but a flitting memory…



I hope you enjoyed the post and I wish you well.

For much more of these types of posts, please check out my new book Writing with Stardust by clicking the book title.


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