For example, in the book I am writing now (have not yet shown it to my publishers but all in good time) I have to let my readers know that my mother-in-law is Italian. Rather than simply write, my mother-in-law is Italian I have set up a scene to start the chapter that has me (or my protagonist, not sure if it will be in first or third person) lying on my mother-in-law’s bed after yet another big lunch. There I describe her bedroom. And indeed, what a bedroom it is! My mother-in-law’s collection of over-sized rosary beads is wonderful. This year’s Palm Sunday olive branch is across one wall and her extensive assortment of Madonna statues from seaside destinations throughout Italy is displayed with care on her bedside and beauty tables. By the end of the fragment people will be in no doubt as to my mother-in-law’s nationality, personality and tastes (not to mention religious persuasion). So much better than simply writing; my mother-in-law is Italian.
Try hard not to be blunt with your story. Things like it was grey, she was angry, she was Spanish can be written in far more interesting ways. Study mannerisms that show she’s angry – red faces, scowls, frothing at the mouth – whatever it takes. Show she’s Spanish by mannerisms too and of course, her clothes. Clothes are a wonderful way to give away someone’s nationality. Clothes are a wonderful way to also give away someone’s personality. As far as colours go, if you want to describe grey, surely an as if or as though is far better than saying the colour. For example; the wall looked as though it had been rubbed by thousands of torsos. Or, the kitchen wall looked as if it had witnessed the boiling of a thousand soups.
A friend and emerging writer recently sent me something to read and I was impressed with how she let her readers know that she lives in Cortona. She wrote something like ‘the soles of my new boots sat idly at the bottom of my cupboard. They’d not felt the cobblestones of Cortona for weeks.’
Just don’t write something outright when it can be told in different ways. Don’t be blunt, be interesting.
Writer Kate Grenville goes further. She says: There’s a difference between writing about feelings and actually creating feelings in readers. You can use a word like ‘embarrassing’ about a feeling, but it won’t make the feeling happen in a reader.
I will go further here and say that you can use a word but it won’t make the reader feel that word, so say more, describe the feelings around that word instead of using the word.
I hope this helps you in some way. Does anyone have a good example?