Words from the Otherworld: Books as colour

A dear friend of mine recently sent me this blog post by Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite authors. I could wax lyrical about the poetry of his words, and the genius of his stories for years. He also has one of the best beards I have ever seen. However, his blog post made me realize something about my own writing. While his books have a gender, mine have a colour.

“Books have sexes; or to be more precise, books have genders. They do in my head, anyway. Or at least, the ones that I write do. And these are genders that have something, but not everything, to do with the gender of the main character of the story.” N. Gaiman

For most of my life, one way or another, I have created art. If I wasn’t writing, I was drawing or taking photographs. I also happen to think conversation can be an artform, but that is a concept for another post.

Long before I start a story I get a sense for the colour palate of the book. As a story is gestating in my subconscious, I will start to gravitate towards certain types of artworks and landscapes. I wont even be aware this gravitation is happening. But the one thing all these artworks and landscapes have in common is their colour scheme. Overtime, these colours will become the background to my dreams. Eventually, the story itself will emerge in the dream-world and that is when I know it is ready to go down on paper. What is clear to me, is that colour, just like place, is a central character in my novels.

“I wondered what I’d learned, and found myself remembering something Gene Wolfe had told me, six months earlier. “You never learn how to write a novel,” he said. ‘You just learn how to write the novel that you’re writing.'” N. Gaiman.

Mark Rothko No. 14 Red, Blue over Black

14 Red, Blue over Black, Rothko

If you were to look at my Pinterest or Tumblr you will see my books have very definite and unique colour schemes. Rain is all blues, greys, and greens. Sunset Drifts is all purples, yellows, and reds. The First will be black and aqua, maybe with a splash of amber.

The realm of story endlessly fascinates me, and now that I am aware of how colour informs my writing I look at different books, movies and shows to see how they use colour. I know most films have a colour palate. But what I am interested in is colour becoming a character. Things like Mad Max, Sin City, Inherent Vice, Game of Thrones, Hannibal, American Gods, Fight Club, and The Fever Series all use colour to specific effect. Love or hate it, Fifty Shades of Grey is a prime example of how colour becomes a character.

So now I have to wonder, what colour is my own character? Or are human’s like mood rings-do their colours change from hour to hour?


White over Red 2 – Rothko


1 Comment

  1. JL0073 says:

    This is a useful way to approach writing. I never thought about color schemes in writing much before but you bring up some valid things to think about here.

    Liked by 1 person

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