In last week's post, I discussed the surprising lessons on writing that I've learned from Photoshop. I went into detail on Photoshop's tools of hue, value, and saturation, and shared their applications to fantasy. This week, I'd like to look at another facet of colors and writing: color opposites.
A lot of stories will assign the "bad guys" to either warm or cool colors, and then make the "good guys" have an opposite color scheme. For example, the White Witch's castle in Narnia was made of ice, which has cool blue tones. In contrast, Aslan's camp featured bright reds and oranges, and Aslan himself was a tawny gold. Writers often use the opposite pattern, too, and give the villains red colors (like in Star Wars, the Sith have red lightsabers) and give the good guys cold colors (again in Star Wars, the Jedi have blue and green and purple lightsabers). Experiment with the contrasts that work best in your story, and remember to have the color scheme flow from your characters. The White Witch's personality was icy and so her color scheme was cool; Aslan's character was roaring like a fire and so his color scheme was warm.
However, that's not how it has to be! What if you led your character down a brightly-lit white corridor rather than a dark, spooky one? You'd need to be more subtle about the sense of approaching danger, but it's quite possible to have a sense of looming evil in light just as much as darkness. One such setting I remember from a childhood classic was in Charlie and the Chocolate factory, when Charlie entered the pure-white Television Chocolate Room. While it didn't feel evil by any means, there were hints of "darkness" and danger even in the spotless room. So play with your use of light and darkness, and, as I said last week, never fear to invert.
link to a great explanation.)
Surprisingly, these color divisions can be quite helpful in crafting your story. As with the other contrasting areas, a major way to use these colors is to show the difference between your good and evil characters. Many writers use complementary (directly opposite) colors to differentiate good and evil. For example, in the movie versions of Harry Potter, the villain's magic was green and the hero's was red (red and green are complementary/opposites). You'll notice that these colors also contrast by being warm and cold. The other color divisions are mostly helpful when you're short on ideas of details you can use to make your characters memorable. Instead of saying X character wore a purple sweater, say she wore a lavender one (analogous colors). These colors are also good to explore what colors work well in overall scenery (say, in the king's court): you can have his standard composed of blue and red elements on a background of green (tertiary colors).
Overall, using opposite color elements (whether in warm v. cool, light v. dark, or complementary/analogous/tertiary) is a great way to add contrast to your writing. And, too, adding details of color makes the story more memorable to your readers. Use color as an opportunity to explore and expand your fantasy world!
All the best in your writing this week!