A Writing Tip: Colour Values

If you read my blog, chances are you read my twitter feed, and if you read my twitter feed, odds are you have considered yourself creative and/or are involved in some sort of creative endeavour. Worldbuilding is part of that – and gosh, don’t we love our worldbuilding? Here’s a thought for the next time you build a setting, a culture, a group of people who even have a common slang.

There’s an assumption that is heavily built into white culture, which I honestly didn’t notice a few days ago, but it comes with some pretty obvious ramifications. Simply put, it associates the colour white with goodness. We have ‘dark’ as bad and ‘white’ as good. If your culture still looks to white as good and less-white as bad, then you’re inheriting a simple part of our world. Workmanlike, it can do the job, but worldbuilding is often best done when we set aside existing assumptions and try to make places different and interesting.

Here are some white things that should scare the shit out of people:

  • Snow cover
  • Lightning strikes
  • Skeletons
  • Icebergs
  • Salty deserts
  • Several types of bug

Here are some dark things that should be venerated as meaningful in a culture:

  • Rich earth
  • Cool nights out of the sun
  • Coal
  • Cast-iron tools
  • Deep water, from whence you can fish well
  • Safe caves and places away from the elements

We have all our cultural baggage and we bring that into our world building. Look at where a culture might exist if they are, oh, say, scared shitless of winter and heavily value dark caves. Or a culture that has cast-iron tools as important enough to pass on as heirlooms and hates the idea of being stuck out on salt flats under the sun in the middle of the day.

 

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