What’s your favorite color? What do you think that says about you?
Is your opinion of a fictional character affected by the colors the author dresses the character in?
Color fills our world, and the colors we wear or live with can define us to onlookers. Yet for the average person, an affinity for a color is instinctive. Most of us don’t give it a lot of thought – we know what we like when we see it. If our favorite colors change over the years, we’re not likely to analyze what that means about the way we have changed. Some writers dress their characters haphazardly, perhaps not even mentioning color of clothing because it doesn’t seem important. When we do that, we’re overlooking a powerful characterization tool.
Many writers, though, recognize the importance of color to the image a reader forms of a character. When Janet Evanovich dresses Ranger all in black, she knows what she’s doing. This guy is dangerous. There’s something dark and unknowable about him. Yet he is wildly alluring, even before we hear him speak or see him in action. Yes, a lot more goes into the image – his handsome face and buff body can’t be discounted – but the black outfit speaks reams all by itself. Would you feel the same way about Ranger if he showed up in brown and green plaid?
Jacqueline Winspear uses color to define Maisie Dobbs’s moods and self-image. On occasion Maisie flirts with bright colors, especially when her friend Priscilla is around to prod her or to whip a stunning dress from her own closet and insist that Maisie wear it. But Maisie always returns to her plain suits in drab colors. Prim and businesslike. The clothes of a woman who does little but work.
An entire field of research is devoted to understanding why individuals love certain colors and shun others. To professionals who concoct dyes for house and car paint, fabric and carpet, color is big business, and it’s not surprising that journals like Color, Research and Application exist. (“Color Harmony Revisited” is a recent article topic.) Our choices are endless. Think of the thousands of little paint cards on display in stores, showing variations that are sometimes barely discernable. Human beings spent years of their lives formulating those thousands of hues. Why? Because people are individuals, and what one person loves, another may hate.
Psychologists have studied the meaning of color preferences for decades, and we’ve reached the point where some employers test job applicants to find out what colors they like.
According to psychologists, blue represents calm and balance. People who love blue are often creative, with a highly developed aesthetic sense. They crave peace and don’t like discord.
Red is exciting and has been proven by brain scans to arouse emotional areas of the human brain. A “red personality” is enthusiastic, intense, competitive, and talkative.
People who like green are said to be persistent, decisive, assertive, and... well, stubborn. They like work that involves detail.
Those who favor gold are described as good organizers, loyal and responsible.
If you like orange, you may be energetic, a fierce competitor who loves to win.
My question is... what does it mean if I like different colors at different times? Do I have a split personality?
Back to the original questions, though: What does your favorite color say about you? And is your opinion of a fictional character affected by the colors he or she wears?