Writer’s Resources #2: Using Adult Colouring Books to Help you World-build

Two of the hardest things about being a fantasy writer are coming up with those elusive starting ideas and then developing and fleshing out your world. For me, time spent just thinking, letting my imagination run wild like whirlwind while the plot is still unclear, is one of the more exciting and also frustrating parts of manuscript development. It’s hard to run with something if you don’t have that one special IDEA yet or you’ve had a fragmentary idea, but really struggle to just sit and imagine without getting distracted.

For me, the discovery of Adult Colouring books has been a bit of a godsend. When I first started my job selling books as an Account Manager for a large wholesaler/distributor, I was completely shocked by the wild popularity of these books. I couldn’t imagine myself — as a 26 year old woman — actually sitting down and colouring in a book.

But the more of them I sold, the more curious I became. Until one day, I brought a copy of Animal Kingdom home for myself, bought a cheap packet of Crayola pens and sat down to colour. And as I coloured, I quickly found my mind wandering in imaginative thought in a half-dream state. It’s easy to focus if your attention is slightly split, as ironic as it sounds.

For me, that state of peace is the most conducive to inspiration. In our modern lifestyles, even if you set aside daily to write, it’s really hard to just turn everything off and imagine/let your mind wander. I quickly found that I could capitalise on it by colouring while I was working on a very difficult chapter or trying to think up a scene. The activity in itself was soothing, and setting aside time to just think through the problem has helped me when I feel stuck in a rut.

Then, I discovered Dream Cities — an adult colouring book with beautiful fantasy cityscapes, and it upped the anti yet again. I started to imagine the people that might live in a city like that, and then to try to locate my own characters within that mapped out environment. The twisting turrets and exotic locals helped me picture places outside my norm.

I’ve come up with a few meditative exercises for writers to do with these books. A lot of these centre around the Mindfulness Principles.  I think that if you find that colouring or drawing helps you in a totally separate way to write, then you should go with the flow. But for the skeptics … try this:

A Writing Exercise to do with Colouring Books

You will Need: 

(1) An Adult Colouring Book, preferably one set in a clear ‘place’ rather than featuring abstract designs or animals. I recommend the following: 

(1) Colouring for Mindfulness: Dream Cities

(2) Enchanted Forest

(3) Dreamcatcher: Soulbird
(2) Pens, Coloured Pencils or Pastels 

(3) Some space to be on your own with no distractions. Music in the background is OK.

EXERCISE – Setting a World

(1) Pick a large spread, a two page joined book page will work the best.

(2) Think of the page as a place. If it’s a forest scene, what atmosphere are you going to give it? Pick colours that suit the first feeling you have towards the atmosphere of the place.

(3) Whether it’s a forest or a city, try to populate your world. Who is there in the space? Are they human? Do they live there or are they just passing through?

(4) How does the colour palette atmosphere that you’ve created affect the beings in the space? What emotional headspace are the people in? Are they calm and blue? Passionate and red?

(5) What made them feel that way? If they’re angry — what are they fighting? If they’re scared — what are they running from?

(6) Consider the world at large again. What’s around this place? If it’s a forest scape, is it expansive? If it’s a city — where is it located? What kind of climate does it have? What are the neighbouring cities like?

(7) Look at the details of the page, the shapes of the leave ,the curves of the city turrets. Why are they this way? What could be special about them? Was this place always this way? What is it’s history?

(8) How do the history and detail tie in with the beings you’ve imagined in the space created?

(9) Once you’ve finished the page, balance the book on something so you can clearly look at the image. Get a pen and a separate piece of paper.

(10) Set a timer. Attempt to free write about something that happens in the space for 20 minutes. Your writing can be in note-format.


My Own Meditations 

An ‘in-progress’ capture of a page I did while meditating on The Tiger’s Watch, my current WIP:

(1) Doing this page, I realised I wanted the riverscape world I’d intended to be a bit more oceanic. I also liked the idea of introducing the dolphins and giving them a use within the culture … thereby giving me a new element of world-building depth. The dolphins will feature as messengers and carriers. They will also pull boats.

(2) I also wanted to emphasise the contrast between the peaceful natural environment and the dangerous, militaristic culture. The city is in bright, violent colours, completely enclosed by a high wooden fence.

(3) The city I designed ended up looking like a flame on the water. And then I thought why? What does that say about the culture itself?



And a complete meditation that I did while brainstorming a scene where there is death and hope (fall means that to me), that takes place in a forest and is very solitary and emotive.


Giveaway! Enter to win a copy of Dream Cities

a Rafflecopter giveaway

3 thoughts on “Writer’s Resources #2: Using Adult Colouring Books to Help you World-build

  1. I came across your website via #YANeedsMore and I’m so glad I read this post! Last Christmas, I coloured a mandala from a mandala book and a lot of inspirations came to me. Now, I want to get back into colouring books to help me flesh out the setting. Thanks for this awesome giveaway!

    1. Thanks so much for entering! I really do find colouring such a relaxing and mindful activity. I think even if you’re not looking to flesh out a particular section, you can be surprised at what sparks in your imagination when you spend time just thinking.

  2. I totally agree! In our busy world we get too busy to give our minds room to wonder. When creating our first adult coloring book I did find coloring an excellent way to relax and give my brains time to breath, wonder and come up with new great ideas. In addition, the digital world we live in does not give that much to do to our hands. Coloring gives that and it also gives easy, low threshold way to create something and get feeling of accomplishment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *