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Thread: How do you describe hair colours?

  1. #1

    How do you describe hair colours?

    Seriously. All I can find online for the colour I'm thinking are things like light honey blonde and other such hairdressing boutique labels. My characters aren't hairdressers. They certainly wouldn't think along those lines. And also, that colour does NOT look like honey.

    How do you to do it? At the moment I'm thinking of saying something like "the colour of weathered oak" for this particular character's hair colour. But, in the absence of sensible names for hair colours, how do you go about describing the colours represented? Do you describe hair colours at all, or just fall back on black, brown, blonde, red? Do you describe a character's hair at all?

    I've noticed that I am somewhat sparse in physical descriptions of characters, you see, so I'm making an effort to describe all important characters, and not just in terms of height, build, hair and eye colour. One of my main characters has been described thusly, for example:

    He was a tall man, his hair dark and matted, with a long straight nose and thick brows. He wore a moulded bronze breastplate and a long red cloak, and he was coated in blood.
    So far, I'm not having too much trouble. It's just that I want to be more varied that describing hair as "light" or "dark", or even by the four standard hair colours mentioned above, with light and dark amended as necessary. I guess I could just go with "light brown" for the character I'm having trouble with, but that feels a bit dull; nor do I want to use the same phrase everyone uses: mousy brown.

  2. #2
    I always have trouble with hair as well. Usually I stick to the simple "light, dark, brown, black, white, grey, blonde" type descriptions unless I want to really point out something special.

    Any advice on this would help me as well.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Ophiucha's Avatar
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    I don't. :P I think one, maybe two, character/s in my entire story has their hair color told to the audience. And they are told as such, "Alge joked that I could only stand the sight of blood since my bangs were always in my eyes, tinting the world red." "You could tell we were brother and sister on looks alone."

  4. #4
    Leadership Kelise's Avatar
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    If I mention it, I relate it to something they know - tree colour, honey, other natural things. Since usually my novels are set in non-technological times, so all they really have is natural things anyway
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Kate's Avatar
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    Basically. As other have said, stick to the brown, black, blonde, light, dark, red kinds of descriptions unless there's something particular about the hair the story needs to be explained. Maybe if someone is fixating on someone's hair you could go into more detail, but for the most part detailed description of something so minor will get in the way.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Donny Bruso's Avatar
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    Usually I only go into specifics on my female characters, because while I have no experience with being inside the female head, I know guys don't typically get picky about what color their hair is. We pretty much stick to the basics. It's black, brown, blonde, red, etc.

    Women (yes, I know I'm generalizing here. I fully acknowledge that not all women are this way) are the reason why we don't have simply blue, light blue, and dark blue. In an effort to be more specific, women developed sky blue, ice blue, periwinkle, forget-me-not blue, cerulean, cyan, sapphire blue, lapis blue, cobalt, ultramarine, azure, cornflower blue, Prussian blue, royal blue, navy, and baby blue.

    Anyway, that's why I only go into detail on my female characters. When I do, I tend to refer to it in passing. I never describe my characters in total. One paragraph will get a mention of eye color as they glare at someone. Another gets hair color when it irritates them by getting in their face. As far as colors, I tend to stick to one-off colors. Instead of red I'll go with auburn or copper. Brown, I generally go with chestnut or caramel. Black gets raven or, well... dark. Midnight is just too cliche for me.

    As a side note yes, I know neither auburn nor copper is technically red. Please feel free to not correct me on that. Color is entirely based on perception, and most people when they see the word 'auburn' think of a darker red-head.
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  7. #7
    Unless the hair comes alive and eats people I have no interest in it beyond a cursory description. Just like eyes. Or physical descriptions in general. Imaginative fiction should, at the very least, involve some use of the imagination. I'm not interested in connecting dots for people.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Ophiucha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by At Dusk I Reign View Post
    Unless the hair comes alive and eats people I have no interest in it beyond a cursory description. Just like eyes. Or physical descriptions in general. Imaginative fiction should, at the very least, involve some use of the imagination. I'm not interested in connecting dots for people.
    Though even then, I'm not sure I'd care about the honey blonde coloration of said hair, eh?

  9. #9
    Generally, you're safe using basic descriptions, unless the hair color is particularly important, i.e. it sets the character apart from all others around him/her. If you want the description to really stand out, that's when you dig into your inner artist and pull out a great metaphor. Of course, if you're writing humor, it's a good place for a great laugh. =)

  10. #10
    Member Meka's Avatar
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    I tend to describe hair colour for only main characters, otherwise its unnecessary. What I do is I describe the colour, rather than the hair ... if that makes sense. I try to think of the connotations of a certain colour, for example, black: darkness, evil, mystery, unknowing; and I would use these words to help paint a picture of the character. I'm making this example up on the spot, so don't judge :

    'Her hair colour was at odds with her pale skin, black, blacker than the darkness itself and it fell across her face in a scruffy, unkempt fashion. I know they say 'don't judge a book by its cover' but I cannot help but feel disturbed by her appearance. The way she uses her hair as a curtain, a curtain of shadow behind which she hides and I cannot see past it.'

    I dunno if that helps at all, you may not like that style but I find it works. Describe the hair itself as just black or blonde or red, but if you want to give it more without just using more adjectives, try comparing it to other features or perhaps to emotions.

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