Monday, September 5, 2022

2022 - September - Color Revelations for Characters


A lot goes on in a reader's subconscious mind, as well as the writer's. In that basement (or attic) of the writer's mind are feelings and impressions garnered over a lifetime of experience in the real world. Especially buried are clues to characters that are based on real people as well as the fictional characters a writer has encountered while watching TV, videos, movies, and reading. As to reading, that includes stories as well as what's been read in newspapers, magazines, and advertisements.

Yes, advertisements. Take for example the perfume and cologne ads. On the page is that suavely handsome man or movie-star gorgeous femme fatal. What caught your eye about them that you paused to look at the ad—and in particular the male or female in that ad?

Nine times out of ten, it's the hair color or the eye color, which includes the makeup around the eyes that enhanced them. When a writer describes their characters or jots down the initial character data on a character, chances are hair and eye color will be among the first "descriptions."  

But what the writer may not be aware of is that in those hair and eye colors are clues to the character's character. For example, why did Scarlet O'Hara have emerald-green eyes? Answer: that specific color represented jealousy and envy.

When it comes to hair color, a writer should ask: why that particular color? Several years ago, in my characterization session from my The Project Bible Course, students had to submit a short description of their protagonist and antagonist. One student filled out the "Hair Color" line with: red hair and stated "all witches have red hair." I replied that was an ad hoc fallacy—not every witch had red hair. I also pointed out that red hair ranged from palest strawberry blond of angels to the darkest down-to-earthiness of mahogany. In the middle of that wide range of color was the carroty-red and fiery-reds.  

On a subconscious level, carroty-red implies zaniness and fiery-red implies a quick temper. Does that mean good witches have blond hair or dark brown hair? Not necessarily. What it does mean is that the writer's subconscious chose that color for a reason and it's up to the writer's logical mind to decipher "why that particular color" in order to better understand the character and help the reader like or dislike the character. 

Where did I originally find out about hair and eye coloring influencing personality? From a study done on traits people perceived that went along with hair color. (It pays to read eclectically.) 

So, you're thinking, what about dyed hair? Then ask: What color of dyed hair? Then ask why that character chose that particular shade and what does that mean. Also ask the character: "What do you dislike about your own hair color that you feel you need to dye it?"

Go to your work in progress, or a story you've written and if you gave your major characters eye and hair colors, list them. What do the colors imply about each of the characters? Did they match the characteristics that went with the character? Let me know what happened by leaving a comment.