- Shereen Vedam
Can our personalities be color coded? Red
Do you lean toward the crimson shade?
As an author, I often wonder how my characters should behave. Would my hero do that? How would this side character act in that situation? Should my heroine’s reaction be different than the way I would respond?
A while back, I was introduced to a personality analysis tool called Insights©. The program examines what personality preferences people lean toward, and suggests it can be characterized into four primary colors that describe four main behavioral preferences: Red, Yellow, Green and Blue.
Each of us can react in any one of these four colors, but we tend to lean more toward one shade than another.
Can you think of why we would want to know which color people lean into when reacting to a stressful situation?
The theory goes, that if we can figure out the color a person is most likely to react in, and learn how to best communicate with that color viewpoint, it can help us build a stronger relationship. Or, as an author, create a more authentic character.
For example, consider a crowded scene near an elevator:
Someone who leans toward the RED shade might stride straight in and press the button to her floor.
A person who reacts in shades of YELLOW might invite others to step in with her, saying there’s plenty of room, Come on in.
One who leans toward the GREEN spectrum will probably politely wait his turn in the queue, maybe even going from one queue to the next, if there’s more than one elevator, wondering which one to choose.
The person who sees the world in shades of BLUE might cautiously step inside, and then count the number of people. If the number is over the elevator’s stated limit, she will point that out and suggest someone should leave.
For an in-depth study of this theory, please visit Insights Discovery.
Just for fun, let’s see if I can spot each of the 4 colors within characters in one of my books. You can follow along and see if you can recognize the same color in one of your friends or family members.
For this experiment, I’ll use Hidden, an epic fantasy novel.
Let’s play with the first color.
Someone with a preference for red shades tends to be direct, extroverted, goal oriented, highly
Writing a Red Character
Reds are A-type personalities. This is a man or woman with drive, who is competitive, demanding, determined, and strong willed. In books, these men and women usually turn out to be the Sheik, the Billionaire Entrepreneur, the Greek Tycoon, or the Bounty Hunter.
In Hidden, if I had to choose a character who favored the crimson shade of behavior, it would have to be the heroine’s younger sister, Anna. She’s bold, beautiful, and, yes, the other b word suits her, too. She doesn’t mince words, can be forthright in her actions and doesn’t suffer fools lightly. She is also caring, considerate and has a heart as big as her world. It’s just that sometimes it’s hard to get past her bravado to see that gentler side.
Here’s an excerpt from Hidden, with Anna. See if you can spot her red reactions in this scene.
by Shereen Vedam
Once inside her home, Gilly stuffed clothing and food into an old knapsack, the same one she had carried when she left her mam’s cottage with baby Anna in her arms. Long ago, she’d lost too many loved ones. This time, they would either all escape together, or perish together.
“Maa.” One of her goats cried the
Anna lingered by Gilly’s open doorway as if afraid to step into the Madwoman of Nadym’s home. “For someone with a gimpy leg, you move pretty quick.”
“I’ve learned that allowing my deformity to slow me can cost lives.”
“Why must you say such outlandish things?” Her sister’s voice was peppered with frustration. “I’ve known you all my life. You’ve never been in danger. The villagers treat you well. When have you ever had to run for your life?”
“I had a life before Nadym.”
Anna strolled around the room, her gaze following Gilly’s movements.
“That pack will split before you’re done,” Anna said.
The sack did look ready to fall apart at the slightest wind, but it would have to do. Gilly bent by the fireplace, lifted a loose stone and dug within for the coins she’d squirreled away for this emergency. She’d expected the Horsemen to find her every day for the last twenty odd years.
Jingling bag in hand, she faced her sister and was taken aback. Anna looked so grown up. Straight blond hair, strong determined face, brooding eyes full of worries, and a no-nonsense manner.
Anna gave up on small talk. “What did you mean about my papa’s temper?”
“Exactly what I said.” Gilly tucked the money in a belt under her dress and picked up the knapsack. She avoided looking straight at Anna in case she was tempted to hug her. That would surely spell disaster.
Anna ran to bar the doorway. “You’re leaving the village?”
“I’m not going anywhere, Gilly. Now, what makes you think you know my papa?”
Gilly took a breath brimming with dread. She’d known this day would come. She had expected to feel a little intimidated. Not have her guts twist like a washerwoman wringing out clothes. Spit it out. “Your mam used to say your papa had quite a temper. This once you must put aside your animosity and think about what’s best for your family.”
“How could you possibly know any of this?”
She cringed at the half-truth. Safer this way. Less chance she’d blame Gilly for deserting her. Better demeaned as a servant than hated as a sibling who abandoned her.
“Why not say this before?” Anna demanded with suspicion. “Explain yourself!”
Gilly gazed past her sister and out the open door. Any moment a Horseman could appear there. “I left you to keep you safe. Admitting our connection would have put you in danger from the King’s Horsemen. They’ve tracked us down anyway.” She shied from mentioning magic. Like the other villagers, Anna would condemn the practice of the ancient craft as illegal. She probably didn’t even realize she was capable of shaping Light. Finish this.
Gilly spoke tersely; getting the words out before her throat closed too tight or a Horseman came by to slit it. “Your family is the enemy of King Ywen. A blood feud. I was your…keeper, charged with your safety. The king had your father killed first and then one summer later, the Horsemen discovered your mother, brother, and sister.” Her voice cracked and her next words came out in a hoarse whisper. “Only we escaped because I didn’t return to help the others.”
Anna sucked in her breath.
Gilly avoided her sister’s critical gaze. The haunting deed was etched in blood in Gilly’s soul, one she wasn’t ready to elaborate.
“Maybe they’re still alive.” Hope vibrated in Anna’s voice.
Gilly looked up then, and spoke with authority, slaughtering that particular idea in its path. She wasn’t about to let hope fester in Anna like an open wound that never healed. How many nights had she lain awake hoping her mother hadn’t perished? That she was out there looking for her and Anna? Hope was for fools.
“They’re dead, Anna. Your mam loved you very much. If she were alive, she would never have stopped looking for you.” For us. She finished with, “Now the Horsemen have come to Nadym, we must leave.”
“No.” Anna crossed her arms.
Gilly’s mind rocked at her sister’s adamant stance. “But…”
Anna waved a dismissive hand. “I only have your word for any of this.”
Gilly leaned forward. “The Horsemen are real enough. You’ve seen them yourself.”
“So what? I’m not afraid of them.” Anna stared directly at her. “I’m not a coward. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I was a baby at the time. What could the king possibly hold against a newborn?”
Terrible unease built up in Gilly at Anna’s cool reasoning. She didn’t care what sins she was responsible for; she would not sanction another family tragedy. What would it take to make Anna listen to sense?
“Maybe the king isn’t looking to finish me off,” Anna said. “Maybe he’s searching because he knew my family and they were friends. Perhaps he wants to offer a grant in memory of my parents. You’ve simply prevented him from finding me for all these years.”
Finding her jaw hanging open in stunned disbelief, Gilly shut her mouth with a snap. Frustration burned a hole in her midsection and she spoke through clenched teeth. “Anna, he wants to kill you, not give you a present.”
Your turn. Know anyone who leans toward the red shade in your life? Tell me something about them that makes you believe that.
Next time, we’ll check out the Yellow spectrum. People in this group are strongly extroverted, radiant and friendly, and racing towards their dreams for the future, they build the possibilities of tomorrow.
To check out people who lean into the other shades of behavior scroll to the bottom of this page and click the tab for Table of Contents (for writers):