Monday, February 28, 2022

Bring Your Writing to Life by Using Colors to Paint Your Story

by Ane Mulligan @AneMulligan

Colors affect us in many ways. That’s terrific if you’re writing a picture book or a coffee table book about art, food, or travel. But how can you use it on the written page to evoke an emotional response? 

Sounds and smells summon memories and emotional responses, depending on the original event. Colors can do the same. We describe spaces our characters enter, so incorporate color to convey the mood or ground another character's emotional response. 

Here's what my research gleaned:

Red: stimulates the mind and nervous system. Will stimulate appetite. Bright red can be an irritant. Symbolizes the vital force, energy, passion, courage, and action. It is associated with leadership, power, the will, and the body. Spontaneity, impulsiveness, and the instinctual sexual forces are its qualities. It stimulates activity, intensity, and extroversion. Red brings out the revolutionary and leads us into affirmative thought and action. I like to wear red when I need to strengthen my resolve or pursue something I want.

Yellow: stimulates the nervous system as well as the mind. Symbolizes the mental force, clarity, perception, understanding and wisdom. Confidence, curiosity, and practical application of wisdom are its qualities. Humor and mental detachment make yellow significant for bringing new life to ways of thinking and seeing. Wearing yellow and gold tones brings a rich meaning to my activities. It always seems to bring crystallization to events and issues. 

Orange: stimulates the mind and provides and emotional lift. Will stimulate the appetite. Requires the eye to focus. Conveys warmth and assurance. Symbolizes the social force, emotions, attractiveness, joy and independence. Self assuredness, amiability and constructiveness are it’s qualities. Orange is about spreading joy and happiness and giving emotional pleasure. It helps become free of inhibitions and lightens the mood.

Green: lowers the blood pressure, relaxes the nervous system, calms the mind. Does not require the eye to focus. Symbolizes the balancing forces, peace, compassion, and renewal. Moderation, harmony, nurturing and diplomacy are it’s qualities. It calms the energies and prevails over excess. Like nature it can draw away energy from being too physical or mental and introduce a stillness that produces a contemplative atmosphere. Relaxation issues from it. For me wearing green increases the sense of wonder and brings to you that “let it be” feeling.

Indigo: Symbolizes the intuitive force, dreams, the unconscious and the invisible. Associated with it the powers of mental telepathy, empathy, and imagination. Deja vu, knowing what will happen before it happens and that sense of being connected to a unifying nature are the qualities of indigo. It is a color of those who intuit a deeper truth. For me it has a mysterious quality of the deep sea. It draws you in like the reflection of the moon on the water.

Blue: diminishes the appetite. Has a calming effect. Does not require the eye to focus. Symbolizes the communicative force, speech, messages, and ideas. It relaxes and opens the mind to share thoughts and ideas. Idealism, sincerity, mental empathy, and relaxation are associated with blue. It brings out affection, loyalty, and inspiration. to me it is the color of friendship and develops that unconditional bonding. I like to wear it to enhance my blue eyes and the color inspires trust and steadiness.

White: creates a stark atmosphere. Symbolizes purity, union, truth, and innocence. Its qualities are cleanliness, self sacrifice and beginnings. Purity essentially opens us to the deeper levels of existence and renews the souls experience of the moment. Holiness and divinity in it’s feminine aspects are associated with white. To me wearing white is being present for something greater than myself. It omits the presence of self from the event and takes on what there is to learn from it.

Violet: Very subduing color. Symbolizes the creative force, beauty, inspiration, and artistry. Energetically violet inspires the receptive soul to express itself in art, music, spiritual ideals and selfless acts of love. It is the universal call to excellence that inspires great things and works of art. Violet brings a soft, ethereal quality to the one wearing it and it’s subtlety and fineness have a strong presence invoking the higher virtues in life.

: Symbolizes freshness, the pristine and unspoiled, vigor and movement. Vivacious and dramatic in a refreshing way. Confidence, strength, and strong individualism bordering on eccentricity are associated with aqua. When I see someone wearing aqua I know they are really excited about life and bring the humor of life to the situation. Fearless and creative the color encourages a festive and celebratory mood. It’s close association with water conjures the more emotional qualities of fun, letting go and joy.

Symbolizes love of spirit, the primordial yearning towards the essence. Meaning, purpose, awe, and spiritual love are its qualities. All quests of the heart are associated with the color gold. Wealth of spirit conjure gold. Gold has an ancient connection to the hearts desire for power and spiritual mysteries. Gold conjures the beautiful sculptures of the civilizations known for mystic powers, high mathematics, and profound sciences. Gold is the color of attainment and profound concentration.

Brown: Evokes a sense of tranquility. Symbolizes the earth, nurturing, contented sensuality, and productivity. Passive, sensual, fertile, and generous qualities are associated with brown. Wearing brown has an assured feeling of being very grounded in and belonging to feeling. Sensuality at its deepest roots is conjured by the infinite hues and tones of brown. 

So there you go. Next time your heroine paints her room, you can incorporate color into your writing to evoke a response from the hero. 


Ane Mulligan has been a voracious reader ever since her mom instilled within her a love of reading at age three, escaping into worlds otherwise unknown. But when Ane saw Mary Martin in PETER PAN, she was struck with a fever from which she never recovered—stage fever. She submerged herself in drama through high school and college. Years later, her two loves collided, and a bestselling, award-winning novelist emerged. She resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler. Find Ane on her website, Amazon Author page, Facebook, Twitter, and The Write Conversation


  1. Interesting Ms. Ane. Some day, we'll have to discuss Dr. Wilder Penfield's work on how much our memories invoke our thoughts, actions, and reactions. Great tips as always ma'am.

    1. Thanks, Mr. J.D. Memories evoke a ton of actins, which is why I love using triggers of smells, colors, etc.

  2. Fascinating information Ane! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great information, Ane. I hadn't thought much about the emotional impact of colors bdfore. (I have a red tee-shirt around here somewhere. I think I'll go find it. :)

    1. It was an eye-opener for me when I first read it. Then my theatrical background kicked in. We use colors to set moods in stage lighting. Bit of course!!

  4. I'm painting my whole house blue! Very interesting!