We are going to spend time looking at the moods of color. Why? Color can be a great way to weave in motif, emotion and best of all mood. There is a lot of information on the psychology of color, especially as it pertains to branding.
In my former life, I was very lucky to spend most my days emerged in color. I taught classes about color and how to use it. When I read a post recently Writing by Design: Using Color Theory by Gabriela Pereira over at WritersHelpingWriters.net on color theory I realized my knowledge of color may be useful to others. I decided to do a series for my blog on understanding colors for writers.
We are starting off with the R in ROYGBV, (pronounced Roy-Gee-Biv), which simply is an acronym for the colors in rainbow order. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Violet. Red has the longest wavelength and is not actually the most visible color.
The properties of red appear closer than others and therefore grabs attention. Scientists have determined that the physical response to the color may increase pulse rate, it may trigger the fight or flight instinct and even give the impression that time is passing quickly. It also evokes sexual desires when used in the right situation.
Seen often as a symbol of love, it can also carry a murderous rage. The color red is dynamic in its use for the writer in a setting or carrying the motif. It can be manipulated from one believing they are in love yet can also display fits of anger or aggression.
Other meaning associated with the color red may be used to stir a reader’s emotion to passion, sexuality, romance, strength, action, stress, determination, leadership, courage, heat, desire, lust, malice and wrath.
Using Red as a writer:
- Use red when your character needs to seek attention or energy, or there is a sense of danger or passion.
- When setting a scene, for example, a murder victim found with red ties around her wrist, the blood on the scene all show rage.
- Using red as a more romantic setting one could describe the satin red nighty a woman may be wearing to seduce a man.
- Showing agitation and anger can be used with descriptions including different kinds of red. The color can be used to trigger an antagonist or another character.
Dress your character in red when:
- needing to be grounded
- means of sexual attraction
- power play situations
It is important to remember that red means different things in different cultures. For example in China red is a symbol of good luck. Use this in a story, perhaps a gift from someone and it is mistaken as aggression. – great way to lead a cop on the wrong path in an investigation. In the United States, the color red is part of the flag and blended may bring feelings of patriotism or freedom to a reader. South Africa mourns with the color red. Be sure to research the use of colors too when using them as symbolism.
Naming a character a color (Ruby, Brick, Scarlette, etc.)
can give a personality trait to a character. Most readers have an inkling of a potential personality when given names that are colors, based on the simple psychology of the color. *see below for emotions of the color red.
Other names of red:
scarlet, crimson, vermillion, carmine, maroon, candy apple, burgundy, ruby, rose, rouge, brick, blood red, blush, fire engine red, cinnabar, russet, rust, flame, Indian red, tomato, cherry, amaranth, barn red, Auburn, wine, Tuscan
Emotions of the color red may include:
Positive: Physical courage, strength, warmth, excitement, love, passion, vigor, drive. adventure, desire, action, tenacity
Negative: Defiance, aggression, danger, strain
For the fantasy writer out there, gemstones that are red can be used for symbols of protection, a boost of energy, create a sense of security, warding off fear, as well as good luck and signs of wealth.