The Write Way: Fifty Shades of Beige

HouseI live in a small housing community in Florida, ungated and maintenance free–which means someone else mows my lawn and trims my hedges. Whatever I choose for my yard must be easy to maintain. Our community is situated  beside a state park so we must also abide by their rules when it comes to invasive plants. Within those limits there are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of plants we can enjoy, and everyone’s yard is different.

Paint colors are another matter.  As of right now, there are only thirty-two approved colors for our stucco Mediterranean-style homes. The overwhelming majority of these are shades of beige.  Even the colors that sound like gray, colors like Tony Taupe, and Amazing Gray, look beige to me.

Then there’s mine.

I would like to tell you I am the rebel, the free-spirit who bucked authority and painted my house camouflage green. But I’m not. That happened before we moved in, and of course, there’s a story connected to it.

The previous owner, an interior decorator, decided to repaint the house and–I’m guessing  here–took a good look at our gray-green tile roof.  She did a search for a complementary color and chose the perfect green. The green wasn’t in the approved palette, but since this is a flexible community, and the color is appropriate with all the other earth tones surrounding it, she applied to have it added.  Unfortunately before the decree came down, her house painter, who had a few days to fill, popped over and painted the house.

The color is perfect with the roof.

The previous owner was fined big-time.

The color by Benjamin Moore is now part of the approved palette.

At the moment we have the only green house in the development, which makes it easy to tell people how to find us.

And what does this have to do with writing?

This is oh-so simple. Before you type the first word of your new manuscript ask yourself these questions. What sets your characters apart from all others? What is so unique about your setting and your exploration of it, that it will immediately stand out for your reader? What makes the very heart of your story easy to find among all the other plots and books surrounding it?

When it’s time to begin your next short story or novel, start with the green house, the house that’s different, the house with the conflict behind the facade. Don’t settle for fifty shades of beige when the lone green house is waiting for you to discover its secrets.


  1. Martha O'Quinn on May 27, 2014 at 8:24 am

    Good morning Emilie. I wish I had the former owner of your lovely home here to help me select the “right” shade of something for my kitchen. We updated and that was the easy part. Selecting the appropriate color for the remaining walls is very difficult – bottom line, I don’t trust my “décor” skills. Your story is a pleasant way to begin another work week.

    • Emilie Richards on May 29, 2014 at 9:25 pm

      I definitely relate. I have made some real color errors, but it’s so much fun when we get it right. Good luck.

Leave a Comment