Communicating with Color

When writing, we need to be mindful of how we use color when crafting our message. I’m not talking about “colorful language,” a.k.a. cursing/cussing/whatever, but the colors we select when dressing up our scenes and characters.

The colors we choose for our stories are going to have an impact on our readers/viewers. Some of our reaction to color is hardwired into our brain – think brightly colored poisonous animals – so we will behave appropriately when we encounter those colors in the wild. Colors also have specific meanings in specific cultures.  Therefore, if the writer has a specific emotional goal for their reader, they may use color to reinforce that message.

Consider the following example from pop culture: In the movie The Avengers, one of the characters is the Black Widow, a female paramilitary agent. Look at her costuming – black form-fitting jumpsuit, red stylized hourglass for a belt buckle, black gloves and boots, no mask, red hair. Black is the dominant color, which does several things for the character. Black is considered to be elegant, sophisticated and mysterious, all at the same time. The red hair and belt buckle add a touch of excitement, as does the red lipstick. The hourglass shape of the buckle is taken from the Black Widow spider, whose bite can be fatal; this gal is obviously supposed to be dangerous as well as mysterious.

Mixed together, we have a character with a lot of visual sex appeal and an element of danger. Using the  Black Widow character as an example, it may be seen that black offers the writer/visualizer a great deal of flexibility. In addition to the above mentioned characteristics, black can also be an indicator of rebellion (think goth), can make spaces seem smaller and is useful for characters that are very serious.

More on color tomorrow! Meanwhile, have fun looking at the different meanings associated with different colors. Who knew a box of Crayolas could be so much fun?


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