Color Wheel Characters by Wendy Paine Miller

Did you get your fill of red, white & blue this weekend? If not, I’m going to discuss the trio, in addition to an entire color wheel of hues. I’ve noticed more and more lately authors are getting gutsy with increasing POV’s. I enjoy reading a book fashioned with several strong voices…that is if it’s done right.

Today I’d like to share the importance of making color wheel characters. Do colors blend into one another on a color wheel? Nope. In nature, absolutely. When painting, sure. But when you look at a primary color wheel one thing you’ll notice is the separation of one color from the next. They are distinct. You can tell which color is which.

This is imperative to accomplish as you write characters. Few things can be more frustrating than reading and experiencing confusion about which character you are reading about.

Even when you’re not writing in multiple POV’s, but are hoping to delineate one character from the next it’s essential to pay attention to the behavior, quirks and defense mechanisms of each character you write. Do you have a hot-headed red character quick to spit angry words? Or how about a cool-tempered blue one, slow to speak, a lip-licking wise soul? Do you have a feisty orange or a mellow yellow? There are so many ways to have fun with individualizing the people in your neighborhood (scratch that—I mean novel).

Perception is one of my favorite modes of tackling this. Take one instance and play with how each of your characters would respond. How would they perceive the event? For example: A player in the World Cup match wrongly receives a red card.

Does one character get up from the couch, arm flailing, swears flying while another sits cross-armed, hmphing while shaking their head? Does one insist, “He deserved it” while another starts to cry? Is one character sleeping, missing all the action? Are you aware why they react the way they do?

Can you calculate how your characters would respond to that?

Off the top of my head I can think of three books that handle multiple POV’s with skill.

The Help. The Poisonwood Bible. Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons.

As a reader, do you enjoy when you can easily tell the characters apart? What books do this well?

If you’re a writer, what are some ways you like toSkittle your characters?
*photos by flickr
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Wendy Paine Miller and I connected through an anthology in which we were both published. Take a few minutes to check out her wonderful blog, All In a Day's Thought.


  1. The variety of viewpoints also depends on genre requirements and the length and complexity of the work. You will almost never see more than two viewpoints in a category romance (Harlequin & Silhouette) or more than one viewpoint in an urban fantasy told in the first person.

    Too many viewpoints in a short work rarely work because they dilute the power of the story and stop the reader, at least momentarily, as the viewpoint is switched.

    Even in a longer work, multiple viewpoints must strengthen the work because a complex plot or world which requires multiple POVs is the only way to tell the story, not because the reader needs to know absolutely everything from a number of characters' points of view. The reader never does.

    As to the color metaphor, a writer must choose the personality colors of the characters with great care. Think of a novel as a large house. The character colors must compliment the color scheme of the house.

    A dark urban fantasy is akin to a brooding mansion with its dark woods and colors. A glittery yellow and chartreuse polka-dot comic major character wouldn't work in that dark urban fantasy mansion anymore than an angst-riden emotionally black and blood red vampire would fit the bright, sunny colors of a beach house comic novel.

  2. Marilynn-

    Terrific insights! Thanks for adding your thoughts. You're ablsolutely right about taking into consideration the mood and genre of the book.




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