What Color Was That?

I started thinking about this as a friend of mine used a color to describe some different kind of person in his story. Jim Butcher had white, red, and black vampires in his Dresden Files. Jacqueline Carey used a deep blood red called sanguine for her character Phedre and to represent her distinguishing feature of being an anguisette. Vulcans from Star Trek have green blood. (Though doesn’t that make you wonder about a half-Vulcan half-Human – shouldn’t he not have either red or green blood? or both? I’m sure that’s another topic for another day…)

As long as we’re doing colors, why isn’t it cerise instead of just red or cerulean instead of just blue? I rarely hear anyone talking about aubergine. Is it the one syllable quality of red and blue and green that make them so common? Yellow simply doesn’t have the same impact. Yet it can’t simply be about the name, because pink will never have the impact of a neon orange – and that never rolled easily off anyone’s tongue.

When I ask someone’s favorite color, often I get a generic blue or purple or brown. The aforementioned aubergine ranks for one friend of mine, and another told me burgundy. It made me think about my own response, which is much more vague since I am fond of too many colors to pick just one. It’s very dependent on what it is for (a car or a purse or the walls of my bedroom)  and my particular mood.

How does color affect how you write? Do you search for a specific shade like chartreuse or will bright green work? Do you work to figure out the perfect color for everything or do you leave a few to the reader’s imagination?

Does having all that information conflict with your own ideas when reading? I’d love to know!

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2 Comments

  1. Amygdalia said,

    25 April 2012 at 10:43

    Yes! I struggle with describing color because although I have a specific idea in my head, on paper it often doesn’t LOOK the way it ought. It’s not poetic or descriptive enough. And then there’s the issue of describing the same thing (a pair of eyes, for example) throughout a story, without being repetitive. Synonyms for color never quite match, do they?

  2. ransomnoble said,

    25 April 2012 at 11:31

    No, they don’t match. Even if you really want them to. You’re right, it can be very repetitive for things like eyes, and eyes seem so important to us, especially when we put it all in color – and that’s how we see color!


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