Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Character Palette

One of my new favorite online toys is Degraeve.com's Color Palette Generator. All you have to do is enter the URL of an online image, like this, and it gives you two palettes with codes based on the image's colors (great if you design websites around an image, or you're a quilter trying to balance fabric values.)

Last year we talked about the possibility of using a color wheel to aid in creating character casts for our stories. I played around with the idea for a while, trying a couple of variations that I mentioned in comments. At one point I had made fifteen different wheels and I still wasn't getting any closer to a finished prototype.

I hate waffling like this, so I shoved all my wheels in the filing cabinet and sulked for a while. It wasn't until I was generating a color palette for a quilt I'm restoring that the Bright Idea Fairy bonked me over the head with a lightbulb.

The wheel won't work because our characters can't be grouped that way; Dean was right. It would only work for stereotypes. Unique characters demand unique palettes. You just need a starting color to work from, but it has to be your character's color.

Let's say I have a protagonist who is feminine, delicate, shy and obviously not based on me. We'll call her Rose, and her character color will be the same as a rose from my garden. I'll load it into the palette generator, see what sort of colors I get, and use them as inspiration for the characters in Rose's story:


Character Palette
Antagonist
Rose's Mom
Hero
Rose
Hero's Brother



Those character assignments are straight off the top of my head, but I hope that gives you the general idea. The method needs more refinement, too, but I believe I'm on the right track now. What do you guys think?

9 comments:

  1. Anonymous4:01 AM

    I started reading this blog last month. I am still not a regular, however I can see how a color can influence a character. I have never used it unless color is part of the story. I will attempt to use it in the future and see if it inspires me to write a story.

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  2. I think it is a very intriguing idea, but where do you go with it after assigning colors?
    When you talk about writing complementary heroes and heroines, are you referring to something like their Enneagram personality types? The figure shown in the Wikipedia entry on that (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enneagram_of_Personality) looks like it has potential as a base wheel.
    Myers-Briggs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator has similar complementary types. I could see a tool being built in that. You determine the type (say INTP) of your heroine, for example, then look up the opposing functions to give you ideas for what the hero would be like.
    This is just off the top of my 7am-on-Sunday brain, but I thought I'd throw it out there. :)

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  3. Oooh, just found a site that seems to go along the lines I was thinking. (http://www.typelogic.com/)

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  4. I think that's cool, especially if you further break it down to contrasting and complimentary colors then do ascribe the color analysis to each character's personality-- ie, red means danger, anger, agitation, etc., so that color is for your villian. Or red is passion, vibrancy, excitability, so it would stand in for the heroine. Cool way to think of characterization, PBW!

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  5. fionaphoenix wrote: I think it is a very intriguing idea, but where do you go with it after assigning colors?

    My plan for this really was to use colors as a way of creating and balancing a character cast. Where you take it from there is according to your needs. I thought if I assigned my character colors to every scene, and looked at all of them in groups according to who appears in the scene, I could easily see how I'm using my characters and places in the story where certain character interactions are most likely to occur. It's also a way to spot a character who is getting too much stage time, or not enough.

    When you talk about writing complementary heroes and heroines, are you referring to something like their Enneagram personality types? The figure shown in the Wikipedia entry on that (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enneagram_of_Personality) looks like it has potential as a base wheel.
    Myers-Briggs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator has similar complementary types. I could see a tool being built in that. You determine the type (say INTP) of your heroine, for example, then look up the opposing functions to give you ideas for what the hero would be like.


    Excellent interpretation -- personality types would be another way to assign colors (I'm assigning them according to my own response to the colors.)

    At this point I'm going for diversity of cast, cast markers and the spectrum of characters as they appear in the novel, but if you can take this idea and run with it in another direction, please do.

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  6. Jaye wrote: I think that's cool, especially if you further break it down to contrasting and complimentary colors then do ascribe the color analysis to each character's personality-- ie, red means danger, anger, agitation, etc., so that color is for your villian. Or red is passion, vibrancy, excitability, so it would stand in for the heroine.

    The emotional associations we make with colors is definitely going to be a factor in this. To some people, sunshine yellow may typify a happy, helpful character. To me it's the color of jaundice, so I'd associate it with a character who is ill (literally) or who has a negative impact on the other characters or story.

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  7. "I thought if I assigned my character colors to every scene..."

    Ah, I get it! WriteItNow Software has a somewhat limited ability to do that.

    I do like the Myers-Briggs stuff on the typelogic site, though. I may play with that a little and see what I come up with. (Look! I've come up with yet another procrastination technique to avoid actually writing.) ;)

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  8. Is this something you use in your writing? Or is it something you're experimenting with? This is something I might do when I'm stuck and not understanding why my characters aren't working. Of course, I have so much fabric and paper from my other hobbies, I may just be able to set up a character spread. LOL. This is very interesting!

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  9. I've been thinking about this off and on all day, thoroughly intrigued by the idea. I do think in terms of colors when I write. Sometimes a character has a trademark color that is used in the story, but I've never thought of using complementary color schemes before. Maybe that's why all the walls in our house are the same color. White. :-) Looking forward to more on this!

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