Earlier this week, I talked about my sources of writer panic, and about things people could do to try to work around their weaknesses in writing/GMing once they identified them. As I mentioned in the former post, one of my weaknesses is writing without color—while I don’t butt up against it a lot in the course of my gaming, it’s been becoming more and more an issue in my design, since we need to stay in grayscale for our art requests. Therefore, I need to work around it.
First, then, I design approximately what I’m looking for. How much not-using-color is not using color? Because of my main need for it, I’m going to focus on not using hue; shade is perfectly reasonable, and luster is fair game.
Needless to say, avoiding not using color isn’t an option; all it gives me is a double-negative-inspired headache. I don’t expect research to be much help either; I’m sure there are techniques, but a lot of what I need to deal with is habit. Practice is what I’m most going to need here, both to get in the habit and because these pics need to be designed—and if the artists read my instructions the way I intended them, I know I’m doing something right.
I start by reframing the issue as something else. Instead of “try to avoid color”, I frame it as “try to use things that aren’t necessarily color”. In particular, this gets me looking at ways to differentiate people beyond the standard driver’s license assortment, including how to get across various odd sorts of parentage without falling back on pigmentation. (Let me tell you, there is nothing quite like realizing your best shot at implying a bronze dragon in someone’s family history involves unusual facial structure and ritual scarring. That one was fun.) So I talk about clothing, and about emblems on clothing. About hairstyle. About the emotional range I expect from these characters. In the original character designs, I slipped a lot and just talked color; “This is what it would look like.”
If I had more time, I’d make it a part of my writing practice. I have a lot of characters, and a lot of places, that I could practice describing without color, they not having been originally designed without color the way my upcoming designs are likely to be. Similarly, since I rarely practice without a partner, I could try to teach them the techniques I have learned. Between my attempts to throw explanations until one fit, and whatever questions they’d ask, I’d likely learn something.