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The Magic Colour Wheel and You

Discussion in 'The Authors' Café' started by unrepentantAuthor, Jun 25, 2018.

  1. unrepentantAuthor

    unrepentantAuthor A cat who writes stories

    Hi there, I'm unrepentantAuthor, and I'm obsessed with the Magic: the Gathering colour wheel. I will now explain the colour wheel, and how you can use it as a writing tool.

    M:tG is a trading card game much like the Pokémon TCG — designed by the same company, in fact — in which you buy cards and assemble them into decks with which to play the associated game. It's been going for 25 years and is very popular. The premise is that each player is a 'planeswalker': a powerful wizard using spells and allies from many world to achieve victory in a duel.


    The important thing to note here is that the game's primary mechanic is that any spell played must be paid for in 'mana', almost always in one or more specific 'colours'. Each colour of mana has a philosophy associated with it, and these colour philosophies can be used to categorise, analyse and better understand characters. Allow me to show you how.

    The five colours of magic are White, Blue, Black, Red and Green, arranged on a 'wheel' or if you prefer, a 'pie'. Any character, any person, is going to express one or more of these colours in particular over the others. Each colour has its own values, goals, methods and perspectives. They can also be referred to as W, U, B, R & G.

    The Colours:

    Symbol: sun. The colour of peace, law & order, morality, and the greater good. White characters believe in heroism, in charity, in any noble and selfless efforts. White characters hate cruelty, self-interested or self-serving behaviours, and any kind of predatory or destructive endeavours. White characters value civilisation, faith, cooperation and community. White weaknesses are lack of attention to the individual, reluctance to use devious methods, rigidity, and too intense a focus on the here and now. White is associated with organisation, with protection, with authority, and with groups that have a common goal. The white land is the plains, the archetypal white strategy is to build and defend a unified army, and the iconic white creature is the angel.

    Symbol: water drop. The colour of knowledge, change, artifice, and improvement. Blue characters believe in shaping oneself, in evading problems entirely, in devising a superior method to everything. Blue characters resent stagnation or wrongheadedness, and nothing bothers them more than a close-minded person. Blue characters value technology, learning, cleverness and inspiration. Blue weaknesses are lack of conviction, coldness and indifference, and planning itself into a corner. Blue is associated with water & air, with illusion, and with science. The blue land is the island, the archetypal blue strategy is to counter and frustrate the opponent's strategy, and the iconic blue creature is the sphinx.

    Symbol: skull. The colour of power, selfishness, ruthlessness, and sacrifice. Black characters believe in obtaining power and wealth at all costs, in doing whatever it takes to earn their prize. Black characters disdain moralism and altruism, they even disdain people they don't personally have a stake in. Black characters value control, ambition, sheer will to succeed. Black weaknesses are an inability to make real partnerships with others, hubris, and self-destructiveness. Black is associated with death and undeath, with poison and with the hidden blade. The black land is the swamp, the archetypal black strategy is to sacrifice resources to obtain any advantage over the enemy, and the iconic black creature is the demon.

    Symbol: flame. The colour of passion, freedom, individualism, and creativity. Red characters believe in doing what they want, in everyone getting to follow their heart's desire. Red characters hate rules and restrictions, they're natural rebels, and tend to have wanderlust or be prone to distraction. Red characters might value crazy impulsive things, personal expression, and long road trips. Red weaknesses are running out of steam, rushing into bad plans, and treating everything as a fight/flight choice. Red is associated with fire, flight, and spontaneity.The red land is the mountain, the archetypal red strategy is to feverishly fling direct damage, and the iconic red creature is the dragon.

    Symbol: tree. The colour of nature, acceptance, growth, and tradition. Green characters believe in destiny, particularly in the sense that people are born a certain way and should be true to that. Green characters want to leave well enough alone, accept things for what they are, and let everything work itself out. Green characters might value history, the natural world, everything being in harmony. Green weaknesses are lack of flexibility, unwillingness to adopt new tools or perspectives, and reluctance to seize opportunities. Green is associated with primitiveness, wilderness, and temperance. The green land is the forest, the archetypal green strategy is to summon big monsters to fight hard, and the iconic green creature is the hydra.

    Most people probably have two major colours in their 'colour identity'. I myself am Blue, White & Red, in that order. I have friends in every colour, but my nerdy hobbies mean they tend to skew Blue!

    Application in Creative Writing:

    I have often found myself wondering how one of my characters would react to a certain situation, treat another character, or solve a problem. Figuring out my characters' colour identities is not just a bit of nerdy fun, it's been a fantastic way to help myself understand them and consequently write them in a consistent way. If you know your characters' colours, then that's a kind of shorthand guide for their behaviour, aspirations and likelihood of cooperating with others.

    For example, some of my novel's characters: "G" is a White/Blue character. He mostly cares about discovering the truth and doing the right thing. He's even a private detective at first! "V" is a Blue/Black character. She's his new boss, and part of the conspiracy to keep aliens a secret. They both care about the truth, they're smart, they like to learn and improve and they're comfortable with technology — that's Blue! However, their main interpersonal conflict is that while G is very interested in what's good for society (White), V is much more concerned with her personal goals and with holding on to valuable information (Black).

    Whenever I introduce a new character, I can think about the various colours involved for a minute, and that makes the interactions intuitive. Here's a good example of using this stuff to figure something out: I have another character, "X," who cooperates with G and V, and I wasn't sure what his attitude towards the conspiracy would be. Once I figured out that he's a very Green person (because he's laid back, thinks things will work out, distrusts complexity and careful planning, and feels like things are the way they are and that's just how it's gotta be) that he's actually quite happy for the conspiracy to continue because "you shouldn't fix what isn't broken."

    This method is flexible, of course. If I chose, I could instead justify his opposition to the conspiracy through his being Green by saying he hates large technological organisations that mess with how things ought to be because that's unnatural, but I don't want every character to hate the conspiracy, and it felt more fitting for him to be chill about it considering that the organisation he works for is really just doing its best to avoid some kind of dystopia which would be much worse.

    Another really good example is how a character of different colours might handle a low point in their life. The White approach is to structure the day, spend time with friends, and stay healthy. The Red approach is to go on a mad road trip and maybe get real drunk. Green waits it out, Blue studies cognitive behavioural therapy, and Black works hard to keep their mind off it.

    Application in Pokémon Fanfiction:

    This introduction to the colour wheel is really meant to be generally applicable to life and to writing of any kind. It's worth noting that the colours have different feelings about pokémon, and it might be useful to readers on this forum to make some observations about colours in the franchise.

    Let's start with observations on the figurehead protagonist of this franchise. Love him or hate him, Ash Ketchum is quite clearly a Red character. He's a shonen protagonist with a lot of energy, prone to impulsive behaviour, motivated almost entirely by his current emotional state. He gets deeply emotional about pokémon, and will set them free without a struggle if they want him to. He has elements of the other colours, though! He's a White do-gooder, he's Black in that he has an ambition to be the best pokémon master of all time, and he's Blue in that he wants to teach and learn from pokémon and other trainers in order to improve himself and others. The very act of wandering around nature interacting with wild beasts in inherently Green. I still think Red is his primary colour, though.

    Pokémon mean different things to the colours. Most obviously, Black wants to use pokémon. Not necessarily in a heartless way, although Giovanni and other exploitative trainers are Black, but certainly in pursuit of either power, wealth or glory. Blue is interested in the deeper mysteries of pokémon: every researcher is necessarily Blue. Blue is especially fascinated by the capacity of pokémon to change. Green probably wants to leave pokémon to their own devices, and respect the natural world for what it is. Green trainers are mostly concerned with real strength (both inner and muscular) rather than with any superfluous nonsense like the other colours concern themselves with. Red sees pokémon as fun and as friends and as a chance to go on a wonderful adventure of self fulfilment and self expression. Lastly, White wants whatever's best for everyone, particularly to heal the sick and wounded and protect the vulnerable, and Jennies with chansey and Joys with growlithe are a good example of White pokémon partnerships.

    Final Thoughts:

    Disclaimer: this is not a cut and paste formula for determining character interactions. It's just an extremely useful device to promote structured contemplation and analysis of your characters. It's also not necessarily completely obvious what the right colours are for a person. A friend of mine who's into M:tG has long insisted that he's somewhat Blue, and I've long insisted that he's not. There's no one foolproof way to figure this stuff out, but the attempt to do so will have you asking questions about your characters that better prepare you to write them in various contexts.

    I hope that you found this interesting, and maybe even useful! I welcome any and all questions.
    diamondpearl876 and Marika_CZ like this.
  2. Marika_CZ

    Marika_CZ Well-Known Member

    Ah, so that is why you asked about those colors that one time on discord :D

    Honestly using any kind of psychological / personality test and writing characters according to archetypes (as established by such a test) is an interesting idea I didn't consider yet. I might try it in the future tho. Thanks!
  3. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Eyyyy, MTG in my pokémon fanfic forum.

    The color pie is really nicely-defined and one of my favorite methods for "sorting" characters (as opposed to Hogwarts houses, astrological signs, etc.). I don't generally use them to try and figure characters out or determine how they might behave in different situations; usually once I have characters that I think I know pretty well I like to retroactively classify them. It's fun to do, though, and it can be interesting to see what particular colors you tend to gravitate towards writing and how different-colored characters can interact as allies or enemies.

    FWIW Ash is SO Red. (Which is kind of a funny statement given his relationship to the video character of that name.) I think that's probably the most common color for traditional trainer characters that I can think of, though it might actually be Black given the focus on fame and glory that a lot of trainers have and the way they sometimes behave in fic despite paying lip service to friendship and whatnot, and it's also the most common color for antagonistic or foil trainers in stories.

    For fun I thought I'd try sorting the protagonists of some of the fics I've read recently...

    Annie from Love and Other Nightmares - Red/Black
    Jade from The Legendarian Chronicles - Red/White
    Mark from The Quest for the Legends - White
    Macro from System: Reboot - Red
    Pixie from guidance - Black
    Shane from PMD: Guiding Light - Red (but this one is tough, I don't think he fits neatly anywhere)

    ...yeah, okay, that's a ton of Red. The protagonist of my own fic is Red/Black.
  4. diamondpearl876

    diamondpearl876 → follow your fire.

    Ohh, you've got Annie spot on.

    I'd put Rediamond's Pixie at Red/Black, not just Black, personally. xD Agreed on Shane and Jade, and haven't read the other fics listed.

    Others I can see:

    Cutlerine's Jodi from Ghost Town: White/Blue, and Tacoma, Black
    unrepentantauthor's Salem from Different Eyes: Blue/Red
    canisaries's Red from Seiren: Black/Red
    Ambyssin's Tessa from Guiding Light: Green
    Spiteful Murkrow's Pleo from Fledglings: White/Red
    Negrek's Nate from Salvage: Black
    Misfit Angel's Kimberly from Land of the Roses: Blue/Green
    Sike Saner's Syr from The Worldslayers: White

    Such diversity. I'm a fan. ...Though I could not be accurate. : ' )
    unrepentantAuthor likes this.
  5. Rediamond

    Rediamond Middle of nowhere

    Huh. Hadn't occurred to me that Pixie was pure black, but she really is. I think the red elements aren't quite there since freedom is in many ways the exact opposite of what she wants. Black is definitely her dominant color with red and green somewhere beneath it.

    Valentina's Green/Black, because no one can be pure good in my stories lol.

    I'm admittedly behind on reading things, but to complete dp's stories, Markus strikes me as Blue/Green tbh given his general acceptance of fate and musings about everything. From what I've read of Survival Project, Sai strikes me as a Red/White who comes off as a Black/Red. Senori forgot what colors are.
  6. unrepentantAuthor

    unrepentantAuthor A cat who writes stories

    Thrilled to see people assigning colours and engaging with these ideas! Salem is definitely blue/red so far, nice catch. She'll show some black too.

    @Negrek, you're an MtG fan, huh? Maybe shoot me a message about that, I want to know what decks you pilot!

    WUR Prowess, UR Madness, UR Artifacts, WU Spirits, WUR Copycat, BG Eldrazi, UR Wizards. These are the decks I've actually built and taken to events, but I love constructing decks in general. Built a lovely White Knights deck for my brother and UG Kiora/WB Warriors for my ex. Also a Red Dragons and a URG Dragons deck for my best mate and WG Heroic for his brother. Aaaaahhhh! Magic!
  7. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Nate would be flattered to hear you say that, but personally I wouldn't call him Black. :p Pleo is definitely Red/White, though, and Syr's White. Tessa I'm not so sure on... Green feels off to me, but on the other hand I don't feel a terribly strong pull towards any of the other colors, either. What does she actually want out of life? It's kind of hard for me to tell, since she's so depressed and simply reacting to what's going on most of the time. So, tricky, like with Shane. On the other hand Silvally rounds out the trio with White, and I think he's a pretty clear one.

    Aww, "not pure good" doesn't mean Black! (Black is not "bad!") Unless she's primarily motivated by self-interest I wouldn't consider Black one of her major colors, but I don't think I know her well enough to make the call myself.

    Some more characters~

    Berecien from Casting Off - White
    Charlie from Skitty's Vlog - Black
    Diantha from Astral Genealogy - Red (like, the most Red)
    Maressa from Drowning - Green/Red

    I've been trying to think of Blue characters, specifically, since I haven't called any yet. Only one I can come up with that hasn't been said is Dave from Morphic. Seems like we have a dearth of intellectual types in our fighty monster fiction...
    Virgil134 and unrepentantAuthor like this.
  8. unrepentantAuthor

    unrepentantAuthor A cat who writes stories

    I actually have trouble making characters who aren't a little Blue. DE doesn't have a large cast of characters yet, but here's a roster:

    Salem: Blue/Red/Black
    Laura: Blue
    Jamie: White
    Alisha: Red/Black
    Church: Green
    ???: White/Blue
    ???: Blue/Black
    ???: White/Black
    ???: Blue/Green
    ???: White/Red
    ???: Red/Blue

    G: White/Blue
    V: Blue/Black
    A: Blue/White/Green
    L: White/Green/Black
    X: Green/Red
    H: White/Black/Red
    W: Black
    AW: Green
    JL: Blue

    And then the four characters from my short stories are all basically Blue with a hint of a secondary colour.
  9. Starlight Aurate

    Starlight Aurate Just a fallen star

    Haha, I'd definitely say that Maressa is mainly red, though I can see her being green in the sense that she likes leaving Pokemon to their own devices and wants to leave stuff in their natural state.

    I'm colorblind so none of this makes sense to me.

    This looks like fun! It reminds me a lot of the four temperaments and DISC personality types (now I really wanna start a thread for those and catalog everyone's characters o_o). I'm not terribly caught up with the fics on here lol, but for what I do have:

    Characters from Drowning
    Maressa - Red w/ tiny bit of Green
    Tabitha - Green/Blue
    Derek - White/Green
    Golduck - Red/Black

    Characters from Salvage
    The great Nathaniel Morgan - Red
    The child - White/Green (although I see Negrek says he's black/red so idk)
    Absol - White/Blue
    Mewtwo - Black/Blue/Green/???
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2018
    unrepentantAuthor likes this.

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