Colorful Thoughts: Brown!

This is part of a series.  Check out previous posts on purple, blue, yellowred, and orange!

If there is one word that describes the color brown, it is “common.”   Brown comes in many shades, an almost endless variety of forms, but it is still a common color.  Wood is brown, in numerous variations.  Soil, again in many derivations, is brown.  The most common eye color in humans is brown.  A large percentage of the land animal species are brown.  Let’s face it, even human skin is almost always some shade of brown – even my pasty white skin isn’t really white, it’s just extremely pale brown.

This has a huge impact on your writing.  First, you need to learn lots of different descriptive words for brown, so you can adequately create a world with varying shades of the same color.   Maybe she really did have brown hair, brown eyes, brown pants, and a brown shirt.  It still sounds better to say she had chestnut hair, chocolate eyes, khaki pants and a mahogany shirt.  Now you get a full range of shades, although you might question her fashion sense.

Now, the fun thing about the common status of brown is that you can use it with your characters in interesting ways.  You can use brown to signify that someone is common, either not worth noticing or in actual status (as in, not noble).  This can be done both with their coloring or with their clothing.  If you want to hide someone (say, an assassin or someone in a hostile environment) stick them in brown cloak or have them dye their hair brown with henna or walnut.

In my opinion, the most fun use of brown is to make a character appear beneath notice until they do something surprising and amaze everyone.  Played effectively, this can also surprise your reader.  Describing them as plain (which often involves brown) and confining them to the background for the beginning of your story can make their suddenly-revealed abilities (magic, intellectual, or even physical) even more impressive.

Brown is a very natural color, and so it is hard to incorporate it in magic.  It can represent earth, although green or yellow are also used, and giving someone an unusual (in the story’s context) shade of brown hair/skin/eyes can make them exotic or even mystical.  Other than that, stick with the browns in your humans.  Don’t be afraid to give a main character brown hair, or brown eyes, especially if you use fun descriptive words like chocolate or fawn.  Brown is common, so feel free to use it liberally.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Colorful Thoughts: Black! « Butterflies and Dragons
  2. Trackback: Colorful Thoughts: White! « Butterflies and Dragons
  3. Trackback: Colorful Thoughts: Green! « Butterflies and Dragons

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