Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Living With Primary Colors


It's cold outside. You know it's so if I say it's so. Cold air doesn't normally bother me. I prefer cooler temperatures over heat any day. Record lows stretch across America and it's no different here in the south, where frigid temperatures have walloped us. And they are calling for possible snow and ice in a few days. I have mixed feelings about this. Snow would be nice—my kids would love it. Ice is a different story. Ice is bad. Bad, I say. I don't want ice.

That is a few days away, so for now I want to talk diets. Uggh… diets. Who came up with this word? It's appropriate: Diet, because you are dying to eat.

Catherine and I started a diet on New Year's Day. Yeah, I know, what was I thinking, right? That maybe it was time I got back into shape and . . . gasps . . . started eating a little healthier. I love cow and chicken and pig—they are just so delicious in all their variables, especially the nugget, finger and burger style. They're just not that healthy for you and I'm 39 so maybe my health should be looked at a little differently now.

Catherine spent the morning figuring out the 'points' I'm allowed to use for food. Wow, points… Seriously? Yeah, seriously. There are a certain number of points I am allowed and I'm not supposed to go over it. Interestingly enough, Diet Coke has zero points and I've seen a lot of women drinking it like it's going out of style. Can that really help your diet?

Imagine Linus Van Pelt saying the word "Doomed" over and over and you have my expression and feelings just before starting this diet. We started the diet and after four days I have done pretty well. Laying in bed last night I started thinking and then I started speaking.

"Hey, Honey, if I don't use up all the points I have for each week, can I roll them over into the next week?"

This is the way the man's mind works. If I had leftover points I could roll them over into the next week and eat more of the stuff I like.

"No," she said sharply. "These are not like rollover minutes—you can't carry them over. Once the day is gone, the points are gone."

"Well, why not?"

"You just can't. It defeats the purpose."

No rollover points. Okay, does that mean I can't splurge on Superbowl Sunday and have a pizza?

[Deep sigh.] It was worth the effort, eh?

Interestingly enough, I haven't really been all that hungry since starting the diet. I've stuck with it, for the most part, and I haven't starved like I thought I would. We'll see how it works out. I'll keep you posted.

On to the main focus of this article. Recently I've been toying with the basics of writing. No, not nouns and verbs and the differences of to, too, and two. The actual basics of writing.

NOTE: Before reading any further, please understand that these thoughts are purely my opinion. Not fact. I have not researched this in any way shape or form. This is just the way I see writing in its most basic form.

Writing, in its simplest form, is like the primary colors and the two neutral colors. Let me see if I can explain this the way I see it in my head. Hold on a second…

"Hey, Charlie, are you up there?"

[Checks watch]


"Ummm . . . yeah, whatta yah need?"

"Do you still have that film on primary colors?"

"Uh . . . yeah, right here."

"Can you roll it?"



Charlie. He's such a good guy, but he often falls asleep on the job.

As you can see, all colors are based on one or more of the three primary colors of Red, Yellow and Blue. Primary colors are your most basic colors and without them you can't make other colors.

I look at writing in its most basic form kind of like the Primary Colors. Without the basics you can't write. The basics, in this case, would be words and putting them into sentences. The See Spot books are a great example of basic writing and a good place to start when learning.

See Spot run.

Basic. Red, blue and yellow.

Keep this in mind.

From the Primary Colors you can form the Secondary Colors of Orange, Purple and Green. I probably don't need to break it down but I will:

Red + Yellow = Orange
Blue + Red = Purple
Yellow + Blue = Green

By mixing primaries you take them out of their most basic form and create a different color. It's basically like expanding on the two colors, or in writing, expanding on a basic sentence.

Spot ran across the yard.

Not only do we see spot run, we now know where he is running. It is no longer a basic sentence, but one that begins to paint a picture. Pun intended.

From the secondary colors you can create Tertiary Colors. These colors are formed when mixing a primary color with a secondary color. They include colors such as Blue-Green and Yellow-Orange. It's a little more complex than just mixing two Primaries together. The same goes for writing. When you start mixing in details, sentences become stronger.

Now, let's change that sentence just a tad, giving it a little more detail as to what Spot is really doing:

Spot chased the ball across the yard.

The original sentence has now morphed from seeing Spot run into not only seeing him run, but also knowing that he is chasing a ball and he is doing it in a yard. We've just given Spot a reason to run. The sentence is morphing, a story is forming.

There's more.

Throw in your two main neutrals of Black and White. By mixing colors with black and white they can become richer or blander. It's really up to you. Add some White to the Red and you have Pink. Go the other way and instead of adding White, add Black and you form more or a Brick Red color. The variations are practically limitless. Writing, in my opinion, is the same way. By adding or taking away from sentences you can strengthen your writing.

Spot chased the soccer ball across the tall grass.

We've just described the ball in its most basic form (a soccer ball) and the yard Spot is running in (grassy). It is still very basic in the sentence structure but slight descriptions have been added and we know what Spot is doing. You can add to this or subtract from it and make the sentence pop or fizzle. Or you could stick with the basics—sometimes that works best.

Don't go away yet. Sit back down. Keep sipping that coffee or water or whatever it is you are drinking.

The basics are important but there is one other thing that takes the basics even further and, in my opinion, is the most important part of the entire Primary Colors Writing Philosophy.


In order to become better writers, we must understand Harmony. In essence, it is a pleasing effect produced by an arrangement of things, parts, or colors, according to the dictionary. In color schemes Harmony produces interest in a piece. It is not bland and it is not 'too busy.' It is visually pleasing to the eye, engaging, gives off a sense of order. Harmony, in art, is easy to view, pleasing to the eyes. It holds your attention longer than a chaotic blend of colors.

We, as writers, need to find the Harmony in our words. It's not just writing the words to a story that counts; it's writing the perfect words and putting them in the perfect spots. An almost perfect word in an almost perfect spot doesn't have the same effect. Finding the right spot for each word creates the Harmony you want when penning a story.

One of my favorite writers is a guy named John Mantooth. I've often thought he is a master of word placement, or word Harmony. If you've never read him, you should look him up. Brilliant writer. Brilliant.

Like colors, there are schemes and contrasts and textures that go with writing. By adding descriptions and emotions you can layer your stories, make them come alive, make the characters believable. But, it all starts with the basics. See Spot run. Go with it. What do you have to lose?

Again, these are just my opinions and I am in no way, shape or form a master at writing. This is what I have used to help me grow as a writer. Maybe it can help you as well.

For now, I'm AJ and I'm out….

1 comment:

  1. Hey, thanks for the kind words, AJ. Nice to be cruising the net and read something like that. Pretty cool.