Writing in Color: How Color Manipulates the Emotions of Readers and Viewers

Updated on February 15, 2018

The Synesthetic Mind and the Senses

How many times have you heard someone say, "Oh, I'm just not creative," or "I'm just too left-brained for that"? Simply put, the act of saying, "Oh, I'm not creative." is a creative act. In this case, the person is reinforcing a characterization of him/herself and; thus, creating him/herself in the image of his/her self-deprecation. When we talk about the mind, we often undercut how baffling a human mind is, depreciating the immense complexities of living as a human.

Everyone is a storyteller. When Einstein talked about coming up with E=MC2 he didn't hand the media a chart, he had to tell the story of discovering it. We can't help but describe the world in stories. The stories we tell are always a combination of right and left brain thinking. We are all creative and we are always using more of our brains than we consciously realize. In fact, our brains are always crossing and tying together interpretations of sensory input. This crossing of sensory input is called synesthesia.

Synesthesia: the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.

We all interpret more than we realize from our sensory input. Think about how closely related your sense of smell is to your sense of taste. Some people experience synesthesia more than others, but the experience of sense crossing is universal.

Synesthesia, Color, and Sound

When it comes to sound and color, I am abundantly synesthetic. The instant I hear a person's voice, I begin seeing colors or scenes in my mind's eye. It's distracting, but I wouldn't give it up. For example, my girlfriend's voice is the image of redwood bark. I don't know why this is the case, but I see the image in my head every time she talks. Just wondering why I associate her with that image and color is a fun exercise and I've come to see my distracting mind as a blessing. Having an overly synesthetic mind is definitely useful when you're a writer.

I make these associations between color and sound without any conscious control, but that doesn't mean that others don't do the same thing to varying degrees. In fact, good writing depends on making use of peoples' innate synesthetic potential.

For example, notice the way you interpret the severity of each color's meaning in each of these four phrases:

  • The purple knife
  • The red knife
  • The purple sound
  • The red sound

Wait, sounds don't have colors! True, yet we still differentiate between the "purple sound" and the "red sound." Our associations with these colors are, of course, subjective and yet there are common metaphors assigned to colors that seem to cross cultural barriers and speak to something kept deep within the unconscious mind. This article will examine a few of them.

Source

The Green Emotion Vs. The Red Emotion

To further examine synesthesia, I'm going to break down the symbolic and emotional associations many cultures have with the colors green and red. A great way to better understand why writers choose the colors they choose is to examine a few popular movies.

Green is normally associated with health and well-being. Just think of cliches like "the grass is always greener on the other side." Green reminds us of springtime, of rejuvenation and rebirth.

Consider the difference in these two statements:

  • Watch out for that guy with the green-covered knife!
  • Watch out for that guy with the red-covered knife!

If you're like most people, then you probably stopped and wondered, Hmm, what could have made that knife green? That's silly. I bet the guy's not a murderer... unless he murders spinach smoothies or something. On the other hand, if you're like most people, the red knife instinctively makes you think of blood and you assume that the guy killed someone.

Writers and filmmakers are aware of these assumptions and use them to manipulate the readers' and viewers' emotions. For example, do you remember The Forbidden Forest in the Harry Potter series? There's a reason the forest isn't described as glowing with vibrant hues of green. The forest is awash in grey and darker hues. The trees are gnarled and splintered. There is a perpetual mist that obscures the sun and the horizon seems unreachable. There are specks of red on the roots. A hint of violence is always surrounding those who enter.

Another example of this phenomenon can be seen in the character design of Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians. Her spikey shoulder pads and bright red lips suggest her villainous intentions long before we know for sure what she is up to. Cruella lives and works in monstrous modern buildings with sharp edges and hints of red in objects hiding, scattered around her black and white decor. In contrast, the love scenes and, in general, the happier scenes of the movie are shot in Central Park. The green grass and flowing water suggest peace and relief from the cruelty of the city and the cutthroat nature of Cruella's business practices.

Source

These are Ancient Associations

Green and red are, of course, not the only colors that humans have strong associations with, but the above-mentioned interpretations of these colors are older than writing itself. The images mentioned above are not the only metaphoric images associated with these colors; nevertheless, there seems to be something ancient about the power of these colors in storytelling. Maybe we're drawn to color because color proceeded us, and is inseparable from nature. Truthfully, I have no idea, but further consideration of the connections between physical properties of nature and ancient metaphoric relationships can only make us better writers.

What's your favorite colorful movie and why? Answer in the comment section.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Nicholas Wright2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Nicholas Wright 

      5 months ago from Oakland

      I love his movies so much. I bought a projector at a garage sale the other day. The first thing I did was have a Wes Anderson marathon. Thanks for the comment!

    • Quey Jacqueal profile image

      QueyJacqueal 

      6 months ago from United States

      Wes Anderson's use of color in his movies amaze me. It is hard to say what is my favorite, but 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou' is in my top 5.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)