Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Character Color Coding

I had the privilege to attend a fascinating seminar at work about “Color Code” a system that has been devised to categorize individuals into four color groups: Red, Blue, White, and Yellow.  The testing is done via an online computer test, then the data calculated to show you what colors you are.  Interestingly enough, all the questions on the test are based on how you perceived yourself as a child.  By color—Blue, was right on!  I was awed by the information that it gave me about myself; detailing my strengths and my weaknesses.  The program also shares how you have a primary color and a secondary color that make up your personality.  The seminar was a training course on how to manage different personality groups; however, I saw this as an excellent writing tool. So here you go.

Throughout the seminar the instructor shared the different strengths and weakness of each character trait, I say character trait instead of personality because I’m a writer and I want that to be the focus of this post.  The most common question I find myself asking is “what makes this person do this thing?”  It’s never the same question.  Every character that I write is different in many ways—why?  Why does this crazy clown that dances around throughout my book want to kill people with rubber chickens?  This character’s traits may be bazaar but there is a reason to it, I just have to discover why.  Then once I find out the “why,” I find a more relatable, realistic, round character.  Forgive my rant, but I believe that a writer knowing the character traits of their characters makes the story.  I’ve read plenty of books where the characters are dry.  This evil villain is trying to take over the world, he has no weaknesses, and he is only defeated by a small moment of dumb luck by the hero—BORING!  Villains need weaknesses just as much as the hero.  So how do you find out about weaknesses?  Ahh, the question I continually ask, and now the reason for this post.  The Color Code!

Each character trait is divided into four colors: RED, BLUE, WHITE, and YELLOW.  I am going to give a brief outline of each character trait color then share an example.  Note that all the examples of the traits are not all going to be pronounced in each character.  Some traits will be stronger than others; these are traits that are more visible in these color types.  Also remember that there are primary colors (the color that is inherently you) and secondary (the other traits that are also you, just not as pronounced).  Most everyone has a percentage of every color.  And so should the characters you are writing about.

Core motive: Power.  Natural Talents: Leadership and Vision.

Strengths: proactive, productive, decisive, assertive, action-oriented, determined, responsible, leader, focused, powerful, visionary, pragmatic, motivated, articulate, confident.

Limitations: arrogant, relentless, obsessive, bossy, critical of others, demanding, impatient, argumentative, overly aggressive, insensitive, always right, selfish, tactless, calculating, intimidating.

Needs: to look smart, to be right, be respected, attain approval from select few.
Wants: to hide insecurities tightly, be productive, be in a leadership position, experience challenging adventure.

Core motive: Intimacy—developing legitimate connections.  Natural Talents: Quality and Service.

Strengths: nurturing, caring, loyal, intimate, analytical, thoughtful, compassionate, respectful, dependable, deliberate, detail-conscience, well-mannered, sincere, quality-oriented, intuitive.

Limitations: perfectionist, suspicious, worry prone, self-critical, overly sensitive, unforgiving, moody, jealous, low self-esteem, judgmental, guilt prone, emotional tense, hard to please, self-righteous, unrealistic.

Needs: to be good morally, understood, appreciated, and accepted.
Wants: To reveal insecurities, attain quality, be autonomous (do it on their own, be a leader), have security.

Core Motive: Peace—the ability to stay calm while in the midst of chaos.  Natural Talents: Clarity and Tolerance.

Strengths: objective, kind, peaceful, non-discriminate, voice of reason, good listener, patient, even-tempered, balanced, clear perspective, accepting, diplomatic, centered, self-regulated.

Limitations: indecisive, indifferent, silently stubborn, avoids conflict, disinterested, unmotivated, indirect communicator, reluctant, ambivalent, timid, uninvolved, detached, boring, unexpressive, unproductive.

Needs: to feel good inside, given space (they like to be alone a lot to think and create), be respected, be accepted.
Wants: to withhold insecurities, to please self and others, be independent, and contentment.

Core motive: Fun—living in the moment.  Natural Talents: Enthusiasm and Optimism.

Strengths: carefree, charismatic, creative thinker, engaging of others, enthusiastic, flexible, forgiving, fun-loving, happy, insightful, persuasive, positive, sociable, spontaneous, inclusive.

Limitations: afraid to face the facts, disorganized, poor follow through, impulsive, inconsistent, interrupter, irresponsible, naïve, obnoxious, self-centered, uncommitted, undisciplined, unfocused, vain, and forgetful.

Needs: to look good socially (everyone must like them), be noticed, be praised, receive approval from the masses. 
Wants: to hide insecurities loosely (joke about faults), achieve happiness, be free, enjoy playful adventures (have fun!).

Okay so now that you’ve read through some of these you can see that you probably share a lot of those traits and so do your characters.  Hopefully you can identify strengths and limitations.  Like everyone, each color has a breaking point (a point at which the character pushes the boundaries of their limitations) and that’s when they have character shifts.  I wanted to help visualize this by giving the greatest example you can give to a writer: The Lord of the Rings.



His strengths are he’s a leader, he is focused on bringing power to his people, he’s motivated, he has vision. 

His limitations are that he’s critical of others, always right, intimidating, obsessive, and arrogant.  A great example of RED.



His strengths are he’s very loyal to Frodo and the quest, thoughtful, compassionate, sincere, and he cares about others.

His limitations are that he’s worry prone, unforgiving of Gollum, has low self-esteem, guilt-prone, and jealous.  Totally BLUE!


His strengths are he’s the voice of reason, even tempered (when not around Merry and Pippin), clear perspective, diplomatic, the peace maker, good listener, and centered.

His limitations include: reluctance, detachment, he’s an indirect communicator, he’s silently stubborn, tries to avoid conflict (but when pushed does a pretty good job fighting), and he’s uninvolved (he removes himself from the story so the leader or hero can take lead).


Merry and Pippin (who would have guessed)

They are both (although they do have different traits) charismatic, engaging of others, life of the party, spontaneous, adventurous, fun-loving, and carefree.

Their limitations include: they are afraid to face facts (Merry with the stone), they have poor follow through, they’re naïve, self centered, forgetful, uncommitted (I think they join the quest more out of a desire for adventure), and they are impulsive and don’t think things through.

So there you have it.  Remember that you can do this with your own characters.  I think it can be a great writing tool.  A lot of the times I am trying to work out a character I have a hard time giving the hero limitations.  This is a great way to be realistic about people.  If your character is BLUE then they should express more emotional based traits.  Of course they can also have small fractions of other colors but if you choose to keep them primarily BLUE he must show those traits consistently to be believable.  If your character is like Merry who is YELLOW, if your hero then becomes a stronger RED in the middle of the story then there should be a reason for the change.  He still however needs to be YELLOW, just have some character traits of RED.  I hope I have made some sense out of something I found really fascinating.  I would really love to give a lecture on this because it truly is fascinating.


Just for the sake of not being sued I am citing that I received the Color Code information from Color Code International and you can find more info on them at http://www.colorcode.com/.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Mikey. Just reading it over I'm trying to decide if I'm more White or Yellow. I'm going to go take their test and see...

    But I like the examples with the LoTR characters. I think you're right that assigning your characters a color trait will help you to round them out and make them more believable and enjoyable. Well done.


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