Writing with Color: Description Guide – Words for Skin Tone
We discussed the issue of describing People of Color by means of food in Part I of this guide, which brought rise to even more questions, mostly along the lines of “So, if food’s not an option, what can I use?” Well, I was just getting to that!
This final portion focuses on describing skin tone, with photo and passage examples provided throughout. I hope to cover everything from the use of straight-forward description to the more creatively-inclined, keeping in mind the questions we’ve received on this topic.
So let’s get to it.
S T A N D A R D D E S C R I P T I O N
B a s i c C o l o r s
Pictured above: Black, Brown, Beige, White, Pink.
“She had brown skin.”
- This is a perfectly fine description that, while not providing the most detail, works well and will never become cliché.
- Describing characters’ skin as simply brown or beige works on its own, though it’s not particularly telling just from the range in brown alone.
C o m p l e x C o l o r s
These are more rarely used words that actually “mean” their color. Some of these have multiple meanings, so you’ll want to look into those to determine what other associations a word might have.
Pictured above: Umber, Sepia, Ochre, Russet, Terra-cotta, Gold, Tawny, Taupe, Khaki, Fawn.
Complex colors work well alone, though often pair well with a basic color in regards to narrowing down shade/tone.
For example: Golden brown, russet brown, tawny beige…
- As some of these are on the “rare” side, sliding in a definition of the word within the sentence itself may help readers who are unfamiliar with the term visualize the color without seeking a dictionary.
“He was tall and slim, his skin a russet, reddish-brown.”
- Comparisons to familiar colors or visuals are also helpful:
“His skin was an ochre color, much like the mellow-brown light that bathed the forest.”
M o d i f i e r s
Modifiers, often adjectives, make partial changes to a word.The following words are descriptors in reference to skin tone.
D a r k – D e e p – R i c h – C o o l
W a r m – M e d i u m – T a n
F a i r – L i g h t – P a l e
Rich Black, Dark brown, Warm beige, Pale pink…
If you’re looking to get more specific than “brown,” modifiers narrow down shade further.
- Keep in mind that these modifiers are not exactly colors.
- As an already brown-skinned person, I get tan from a lot of sun and resultingly become a darker, deeper brown. I turn a pale, more yellow-brown in the winter.
- While best used in combination with a color, I suppose words like “tan” “fair” and “light” do work alone; I’d just note that tan is less likely to be taken for “naturally tan” and much more likely a tanned white person.
- Calling someone “dark” as description on its own is offensive to some and also ambiguous. (See: Describing Skin as Dark)
U n d e r t o n e s
Undertones are the colors beneath the skin, seeing as skin isn’t just one even color but has more subdued tones within the dominating palette.
- Mentioning the undertones within a character’s skin is an even more precise way to denote skin tone.
- As shown, there’s a difference between say, brown skin with warm orange-red undertones (Kelly Rowland) and brown skin with cool, jewel undertones (Rutina Wesley).
“A dazzling smile revealed the bronze glow at her cheeks.”
“He always looked as if he’d ran a mile, a constant tinge of pink under his tawny skin.”
Standard Description Passage
“Farah’s skin, always fawn, had burned and freckled under the summer’s sun. Even at the cusp of autumn, an uneven tan clung to her skin like burrs. So unlike the smooth, red-brown ochre of her mother, which the sun had richened to a blessing.”
-From my story “Where Summer Ends” featured in Strange Little Girls
- Here the state of skin also gives insight on character.
- Note my use of “fawn” in regards to multiple meaning and association. While fawn is a color, it’s also a small, timid deer, which describes this very traumatized character of mine perfectly.
Though I use standard descriptions of skin tone more in my writing, at the same time I’m no stranger to creative descriptions, and do enjoy the occasional artsy detail of a character.
C R E A T I V E D E S C R I P T I O N
Whether compared to night-cast rivers or day’s first light…I actually enjoy seeing Characters of Colors dressed in artful detail.
I’ve read loads of descriptions in my day of white characters and their “smooth rose-tinged ivory skin”, while the PoC, if there, are reduced to something from a candy bowl or a Starbucks drink, so to actually read of PoC described in lavish detail can be somewhat of a treat.
Still, be mindful when you get creative with your character descriptions. Too many frills can become purple-prose–like, so do what feels right for your writing when and where.
Not every character or scene warrants a creative description, either. Especially if they’re not even a secondary character.
Using a combination of color descriptions from standard to creative is probably a better method than straight-up creative. But again, do what’s good for your tale.
N A T U R AL S E T T I N G S – S K Y
Pictured above: Harvest Moon -Twilight, Fall/Autumn Leaves, Clay, Desert/Sahara, Sunlight – Sunrise – Sunset – Afterglow – Dawn- Day- Daybreak, Field – Prairie – Wheat, Mountain/Cliff, Beach/Sand/Straw/Hay.
- Now before you run off to compare your heroine’s skin to the harvest moon or a cliff side, think about the associations to your words.
- When I think cliff, I think of jagged, perilous, rough. I hear sand and picture grainy, yet smooth. Calm. mellow.
- So consider your character and what you see fit to compare them to.
- Also consider whose perspective you’re describing them from. Someone describing a person they revere or admire may have a more pleasant, loftier description than someone who can’t stand said person.
“Her face was like the fire-gold glow of dawn, lifting my gaze, drawing me in.”
“She had a sandy complexion, smooth and tawny.”
- Even creative descriptions tend to draw help from your standard words.
F L O W E R S
Pictured above: Calla lilies, Western Coneflower, Hazel Fay, Hibiscus, Freesia, Rose
- It was a bit difficult to find flowers to my liking that didn’t have a 20 character name or wasn’t called something like “chocolate silk” so these are the finalists.
- You’ll definitely want to avoid purple-prose here.
- Also be aware of flowers that most might’ve never heard of. Roses are easy, as most know the look and coloring(s) of this plant. But Western coneflowers? Calla lilies? Maybe not so much.
“He entered the cottage in a huff, cheeks a blushing brown like the flowers Nana planted right under my window. Hazel Fay she called them, was it?”
A S S O R T E D P L A N T S & N A T U R E
Pictured above: Cattails, Seashell, Driftwood, Pinecone, Acorn, Amber
- These ones are kinda odd. Perhaps because I’ve never seen these in comparison to skin tone, With the exception of amber.
- At least they’re common enough that most may have an idea what you’re talking about at the mention of “pinecone.“
- I suggest reading out your sentences aloud to get a better feel of how it’ll sounds.
“Auburn hair swept past pointed ears, set around a face like an acorn both in shape and shade.”
- I pictured some tree-dwelling being or person from a fantasy world in this example, which makes the comparison more appropriate.
- I don’t suggest using a comparison just “’cuz you can” but actually being thoughtful about what you’re comparing your character to and how it applies to your character and/or setting.
W O O D
Pictured above: Mahogany, Walnut, Chestnut, Golden Oak, Ash
- Wood is definitely an iffy description for skin tone. Not only due to several of them having “foody” terminology within their names, but again, associations.
- Some people would prefer not to compare/be compared to wood at all, so get opinions, try it aloud, and make sure it’s appropriate to the character if you do use it.
“The old warlock’s skin was a deep shade of mahogany, his stare serious and firm as it held mine.”
M E T A L S
Pictured above: Platinum, Copper, Brass, Gold, Bronze
- Copper skin, brass-colored skin, golden skin…
- I’ve even heard variations of these used before by comparison to an object of the same properties/coloring, such as penny for copper.
- These also work well with modifiers.
“The dress of fine white silks popped against the deep bronze of her skin.”
G E M S T O N E S – M I N E R A LS
Pictured above: Onyx, Obsidian, Sard, Topaz, Carnelian, Smoky Quartz, Rutile, Pyrite, Citrine, Gypsum
- These are trickier to use. As with some complex colors, the writer will have to get us to understand what most of these look like.
- If you use these, or any more rare description, consider if it actually “fits” the book or scene.
- Even if you’re able to get us to picture what “rutile” looks like, why are you using this description as opposed to something else? Have that answer for yourself.
“His skin reminded her of the topaz ring her father wore at his finger, a gleaming stone of brown, mellow facades.”
P H Y S I C A L D E S C R I P T I ON
- Physical character description can be more than skin tone.
- Show us hair, eyes, noses, mouth, hands…body posture, body shape, skin texture… though not necessarily all of those nor at once.
- Describing features also helps indicate race, especially if your character has some traits common within the race they are, such as Afro hair to a Black character.
- How comprehensive you decide to get is up to you. I wouldn’t overdo it and get specific to every mole and birthmark. Noting defining characteristics is good, though, like slightly spaced front teeth, curls that stay flopping in their face, hands freckled with sunspots…
G E N E R A L T I P S
Indicate Race Early: I suggest indicators of race be made at the earliest convenience within the writing, with more hints threaded throughout here and there.
- Get Creative All On Your Own: Obviously, I couldn’t cover every proper color or comparison in which has been “approved” to use for your characters’ skin color, so it’s up to you to use discretion when seeking other ways and shades to describe skin tone.
- Skin Color May Not Be Enough: Describing skin tone isn’t always enough to indicate someone’s ethnicity. As timeless cases with readers equating brown to “dark white” or something, more indicators of race may be needed.
Describe White characters and PoC Alike: You should describe the race and/or skin tone of your White characters just as you do your Characters of Color. If you don’t, you risk implying that White is the default human being and PoC are the “Other”).
- PSA: Don’t use “Colored.” Based on some asks we’ve received using this word, I’d like to say that unless you or your character is a racist grandmama from the 1960s, do not call People of Color “colored” please.
- Not Sure Where to Start? You really can’t go wrong using basic colors for your skin descriptions. It’s actually what many people prefer and works best for most writing. Personally, I tend to describe my characters using a combo of basic colors + modifiers, with mentions of undertones at times. I do like to veer into more creative descriptions on occasion.
- Want some alternatives to “skin” or “skin color”? Try: Appearance, blend, blush, cast, coloring, complexion, flush, glow, hue, overtone, palette, pigmentation, rinse, shade, sheen, spectrum, tinge, tint, tone, undertone, value, wash.
Skin Tone Resources
- List of Color Names
- The Color Thesaurus
- Things that are Brown (blog)
- Skin Undertone & Color Matching
- Tips and Words on Describing Skin
- Photos: Undertones Described (Modifiers included)
- Online Thesaurus (try colors, such as “red” & “brown”)
- Don’t Call me Pastries: Creative Skin Tones w/ pics 3 2 1
Writing & Description Guides
- WWC Guide: Words to Describe Hair
- Writing with Color: Description & Skin Color
- Describing Characters of Color (Passage Examples)
- 7 Offensive Mistakes Well-intentioned Writers Make
I tried to be as comprehensive as possible with this guide, but if you have a question regarding describing skin color that hasn’t been answered within part I or II of this guide, or have more questions after reading this post, feel free to ask!
~ Mod Colette
I think Yoda would still want to hide and separate the children. I think Padme would refuse, and I hope Obi Wan would help–
Because wouldn’t that be fun? Padme, who ruled a planet, who challenged a senate, who married a horror, who can pick her own locks while handcuffed in the middle of a gladiatorial arena– now on the run with her two infants and only a heartbroken Obi Wan to back her up.
(And R2D2, of course.)
Padme’s always been the practical sort, even when royal, so she knows how to change a diaper and feed a child. She also knows how to fly the stolen ships Obi Wan and R2D2 hack into, how to bargain in thirteen intergalactic languages, how to spot a bounty hunter in a crowd, and how to shoot a blaster with deadly intent.
Padme was in love with someone who maybe never even existed– maybe once, there had been a boy who wanted to help people, who risked his life and his pod racer for someone else’s story, who made a young girl laugh in a sand-worn mechanic’s shop.
She had been chasing him for years, that once good heart, but now with these bruises purpling and fading around her neck, she stops waiting. She starts running. Every time Obi Wan force-moves something over the next few weeks, she has to bury a flinch.
But Leia is growing in fits and spurts, eating greedily and crying loudly. She stays in a sling on Padme’s chest when they move, Luke held snug in a sling around Obi Wan’s. Luke gets a whole head of thick brown hair while Leia’s is still patchy and bald, but he never matches his sister’s powerful lungs.
When Padme had been sitting in her high senatorial apartment on Corsucant, holding Anakin’s sweaty hand, she had never imagined she’d be murmuring desperately soothing noises to her fussy daughter while she shot around a corner at stormtroopers, while R2D2 meddles with a ship’s blast doors behind her.
Luke starts teething on a hot jungle planet where they hunker down for three weeks, sleeping in an abandoned old temple and catching the local wildlife for dinner. Leia takes her first steps in the belly of a Corellian freighter they’ve stowed away on. She wobbles between Padme’s outstretched hands and Obi Wan’s knees and boxes of smuggled luxuries. When she falls down, Obi Wan surges forward, heart in his throat, but Leia laughs.
Padme lost a husband, but Obi Wan lost a brother and his whole order– his world, his people, his family.
(One day, Leia’s whole home planet will vaporize and die under Vader’s–Anakin’s–command, and Obi Wan will find himself in the wreckage of it, the place Alderaan used to be, and he will recognize the sorrow shrieking into the Force.)
But for now– Padme watches Obi Wan win them funds in gambling halls, grin into the teeth of a good flyer chase, sleep with Leia strewn over his chest, and Padme wonders if he isn’t more heartbroken here over Anakin than she is.
Luke learns to walk a whole few months after Leia, but he falls less. He moves around the rim on mechanic’s shops, freighter cargo holds, makeshift camps on green planets, holding onto stable things and frowning seriously. Leia tries to leap from walking to running with no lead up time at all. She is not without scraped knees and scabby heels of her palms for years.
They manage to spend a whole eight months on a little Outer Rim planet in a sleepy agrarian settlement. Padme and Obi Wan repair farming droids while R2D2 plays nursemaid (both Leia and Luke will be fluent in droid by the time they’re six). Luke and Leia play rough-housing games in the dry dirt– this is the first time they’ve stayed anywhere long enough to learn other children’s names. On day two hundred and thirty six they hear reports of stormtroopers so they pack up and hop on a transport at the nearest spaceport, not even bothering to check where it’s going.
When they fly their own ships, they strap Luke and Leia into the same passenger’s seat and Padme and Obi Wan narrate. “Here you’ve got to always turn off the compressor before you activate the initiator…” “See the flashy blue light? Gotta have all the blue lights flashing…”
They hear reports of the empire growing. They see it– stormtroopers in more and more distant outposts, imperial ships passing them in the skies. Obi Wan lost the Jedi cloak years ago. They plate R2D2 in matte grey paint. Padme cuts her hair short and dresses in many-varied-layers like any refugee– because that’s what she is now, she and her little family.
Obi Wan has two lightsabers. He thinks Padme doesn’t know– he has the one he fights with, holding back stormtroopers and reflecting bounty hunters’ blaster shots, but he also has another one, tucked into the bottom of his pack.
“It’s Anakin’s, isn’t it?” Padme asks one late night, tucked in a stony sheltered hollow on a planet that storms warm rain thirty-eight hours out of the day’s forty-two. Obi Wan gives a soft laugh and puts his hand over his eyes as Padme goes on, “The saber you’re hiding from me.”
He nods, slowly, lets his hand fall. “I took it from him, when I left him for dead.”
“Not dead enough,” says Padme. “You’re keeping it in case yours gets lost?”
“Yes,” he says slowly. “Or in case… we might need another light saber, some day.”
Luke is bouncing a X-wing fighter toy along the wet pebbles. Leia is beeping something at R2D2, giggling over the rainfall.
“Hm,” says Padme. “We might need another two.”
Alderaan still becomes Leia’s home. At almost sixteen, spit-fire furious, thoroughly educated by both a Jedi master and her ex-queen/ex-senator/always-a-rebel mother, Leia sits firmly down at the table in the junk smuggling ship they’ve been living on recently and announces, “I want to go into politics.”
“I don’t trust politicians,” says Obi Wan, and Padme kicks him under the table.
They fabricate educational records and essay-writing contests, relying on R2D2’s hacking skills as much as Obi Wan’s powers of persuasion. Padme contacts her old senatorial ally Bail Organa and gets Leia a junior internship on his staff.
The Organas had once been willing to take in a girl-child and call her their own. They welcome this older, taller Leia with arms just as wide-open and she boards in their spare bedroom. Over breakfasts where Leia enthusiastically grills Bail about policies, bills, and negotiations, they never mention they were almost her parents. Their adopted daughter Isabel, who is a few months younger than Leia, giggles into her oatmeal while Leia leans forward and waves a spoon as she tries to make a point.
Leia has never lived more than nine and half months in one place, and never on a planet with a shorter than nine standard-month solar orbit– so she has never seen a season leave and then return.
She files papers and learns bureaucrat-speak and sits through meetings and helps plant saplings in a local park in a bit of community outreach PR for the senator’s campaign. A wet spring rolls into a muggy, ugly summer; then the fall cold cracks the air and thick purple and orange leaves cascade to the ground. All the climbing vines turn red and brown to prepare for hibernation.
Winter wreathes the place in frost and the occasional dusting of snow. Leia and her family once spent two closeted weeks on Hoth, laying low, so she scoffs at the layers and layers all her fellow interns are draping themselves with. She gets some waterproof boots, some good gloves, and forgets her hat with a stubborn, prideful constancy.
Then the spring comes in. The frost melts and the grass shoots up. Irises unfurl purple, and geryblums come in vibrant yellow. Leia walks to the senatorial offices in a vague drizzle, having forgotten her hat again, and gets there sopping wet and feeling like something is overflowing in her chest.
When she first stepped on this planet, the irises were uncurling, purple, white, frilled. They withered, browned, the seasons rolling on, but then the irises came in– came back.
the tragedy of anakin skywalker (x)
OH GOD NO BUT THAT WOULD BE PERFECT. how did the jedi not think of that?
what is anakin’s biggest weakness? attachments.
you know who needs lots of attachment? babies. small children.
anakin should not have been made to study murder: he should have been put in charge of Small Things. He would have bonded with all of them instantly, and it would have given his life Meaning and Purpose.
He’d bond with the kids, but he’d be able to move on because they are Bigger now and they have to go to the Big Kid Class but he still sees them around all the time, and it finally teaches him how to let go of his attachments??? He’d find a kid that he’s particularly fond of and go to Obi-Wan and say “I have found your newest padawan.”
this could have fixed so. many. things. ;_____;
Heh, and Anakin would keep picking Obi-Wan’s padawans for him, and it would be annoying but damn if he wasn’t right every single time.
BUT CAN YOU
JUST IMAGINE HOW ANNOYED PALPATINE WOULD BE his life would be never-ending
string of trying to get a hold of Anakin (I mean, would Anakin give him a time of day if he can spend it with small kids who absolutely adore him instead?)
comming over the years, but it’s always like
boy, we haven’t seen each other in a while—“
Chancellor, now’s not the best time. I’m tutoring a class.”
boy, I wonder if we could meet for a chat—“
can’t be this week, we’re going to Ilum, but maybe later…”
I’d like to—“
terribly sorry, Chancellor,” Obi-Wan Kenobi answers. The apologetic tone might
be just a tad exaggerated. “Anakin is on a trip with younglings, he
must’ve left his comlink behind accidentally.”
reached Anakin Skywalker’s private comlink. Leave the message after the tone.”
a shame that Council doesn’t consider sending you on this campaign, considering
the lightsaber skills you demonstrated when I was last visiting the Temple,
Chancellor, but this is precisely why I need to stay behind. In fact just the
last week, the Masters decided I should take over some advanced lightsaber
classes, considering senior Padawans accompanying their Masters on the frontlines
need the training. I might take the Bear Clan along, make it a learning
opportunity for the young ones—“
closes his eyes slowly. He knows this from experience; Anakin won’t let himself
be budged from the topic of little monsters for at least another half an hour.
Chancellor Palpatine. Anakin left his comlink behind again, he’s in class—“
the voice on the other end is distinctly female, and Palpatine recognizes it after
a second. Kenobi’s second Padawan. He barely restrains the urge to gnash his
teeth. “Um, Skyg—I mean, Master Skywalker can’t pick up now. I can tell him you
called? It’s just that he was helping me with forms, and he forgot his comlink,
and he’s probably already in crèche…”
that one time when an actual youngling picks up the call. The less said about his
reaction to that incident, the better.
they were all right in the end. But in my opinion, this should never happened
in the first place, Chancellor.”
snaps awake. Was that… was that anger? Finally, the hours of listening to
worthless drivel about Jedi younglings paid off.
“My boy, I
absolutely agree,” he begins slyly, but before he can continue, Anakin steamrolls
“I think Jedi
Order is too deeply entwined in the conflict! I honestly don’t think even
senior Padawans should be anywhere near battles, not to mention in command of
GAR, but now even younglings are acceptable targets for Separatists and pirates!
Master Yoda and I were talking about this lately, and—“
swallows a scream of rage with some difficulty.
comlink again, Master Skywalker has. With younglings, he is.”
younglings moved to the top on the list of things Darth Sidious will do after
taking over galaxy some time ago.
this post keeps getting better and better
That is what the Council would have done if they were smart. Seriously. Here’s Yoda saying Anakin should not be taught because he senses too much fear in him, and it’s fear for the people he cares about, something everyone present realizes fully because when it comes to his own safety, Anakin couldn’t be more reckless.
Then Qui Gon announces he’s training him anyway, someone points out he might fulfill the prophecy and bring balance to the Force, and nobody, NOBODY, thinks that MAYBE giving him a job that’s more about caring than killing might be an idea. Nope. Okay, we’re training him, let’s foster the loose canon aspect of his personalities, make him a war general and keep pushing him into vicious battles to the death. Sounds perfect for his mental health.
The Jedi Council were a bunch of idiots with their head so far up their own asses even a lightsaber shoved up there to the hilt would not provide them enough light to see further than their own noses.
I think I got lost somewhere in this metaphor. You get the point.
After ten years, Palpatine loses his patience and decides to change his plans. Fuck it, Skywalker has kids now–two adorable little moppets who can be captured, broken, and twisted into twin powerhouses of the Dark Side. Torture one while the other watches, convince them Daddy doesn’t love them, easy-peasy.
Unfortunately, he fails to reckon with the fact that not only is he going up against Anakin Fucking Skywalker, but that Anakin Fucking Skywalker is the surrogate father/big brother/best friend/cool teacher of ninety percent of the current Padawans and young Knights in the Order. And while the Council might make decisions and talk about the Will of the Force and stuff, those Padawans and Knights only care about the fact that the man who scared away the monsters under the bed–made it feel less lonely and frightening to be away from home when they were small–is now hurting and scared for his own children.
Just like Palpatine always wanted, Anakin ends up leading an army. An army of young Jedi who smash the ever-loving shit out of everything “Darth Sidious” can throw at them, rescue the terrified Skywalker twins, and drag the Chancellor hisownself before the Senate with conclusive proof that he’s an evil Dark-Side-wielding bastard who kidnaps adorable kids.
Luke and Leia would have grown up with 500 brothers and sisters of assorted species. Whenever you see Anakin there are 10 kids with him, occasionally actively hanging off of his arms or riding on his shoulders. (Anakin looks downright gleeful about this). Padme thinks it’s the most adorable thing ever.
20 years later by the time “A New Hope” would have begun, Anakin is 45. Padme is the new Chancellor. Luke and Leia are finishing their own Jedi training. 90% of the current young Jedi order calls Anakin ‘Dad’. He has amassed the galaxy’s largest collection of refrigerator art. After that incident with Chancellor Palpatine 15 years back, Yoda was forced to admit to Qui Gon’s very smug force-ghost that he was right. Everything is right with the galaxy.
I am so sorry this ate my brain and then things ran away from me. I AM SORRY.
So. Anakin leads an army to retrieve his children and it’s this twisted version of everything Sidious ever wanted and he’s prepared for that.
But Sidious always underestimates how love changes things. And while he’s prepared to fight Anakin’s devoted army of former crechelings, he underestimates how that’s changed the rest of the Order.
Because Obi-Wan is quieter about whom and how he loves but doesn’t make it any less strong. When Obi-Wan loves someone it is unconditional and unyielding and he has never loved anyone as much as he loves Anakin Skywalker. Then the twins are born and Anakin is bashfully about it but he’s not ashamed and of course Obi-Wan has to know, he can’t imagine Obi-Wan not knowing his children (Obi-Wan totally already knows, he has been rolling his eyes about this for months and waiting for Anakin to come to him so he doesn’t spook him or for Padme to knock some freaking sense into him, which she does, because not-dying Padme is scary post-pregnancy and not willing to deal with the stupid anymore) and then Padme hands him Leia and everything stutters to a halt for a moment because oh, oh no, Anakin has found him another padawan.
There is no one Obi-Wan will ever love as fiercely as Anakin, except for Anakin’s children, who may as well be his own children. And he knows from the moment he first holds her that Leia will be the greatest Jedi he ever has a hand in raising.
(It becomes a joke among the Knights and Masters at the temple after the Skywalker twins arrive. If you even think that you might like to take Leia as your padawan, you can feel Obi-Wan glare at you no matter where he is in the galaxy.)
And when Sidious kidnaps Anakin’s children – his future padawan – Obi-Wan is the only Jedi in the galaxy who can put a hand on Anakin’s shoulder and say we need a distraction to do this safely, trust me to bring them home for you. Anakin will lead the frontal assault and tear down all of Sidious’ carefully constructed plans. Obi-Wan will sneak in and safeguard their children and bring them home.
That’s the plan, anyway.
Here’s what none of them expected:
When Luke Skywalker came screaming and red-faced into the world, an ancient, meddling, troll of a Jedi Master who had vowed never to take another padawan felt it and thought: fuck.
Whereas Leia is, even as a child, stubborn and willful and silk hiding steel, Luke is twin balls of sunshine. Raised among Jedi, he is so bright a presence it hurts. Even raised among Jedi, he wears his heart on his sleeve and has absolutely no guile and he pouts when the cafeteria doesn’t serve his favourite dessert but will cheerfully walk across the room and give it to someone else if he senses that person is still hungry. The first time Luke sees Yoda he stares at him, all big blue eyes and pudgy baby hands, then grabs his ears and won’t let go. Everyone is horrified. Yoda harrumphs at him and tell him, “Patience, young one.” He toddles after Yoda from the time he can crawl and no matter how grouchy Yoda seems he never actively dissuades him from it.
After the twins enter the temple, Anakin always knows not to worry if Luke is missing from the crèche. Yoda will escort him back sooner or later.
(He’s always much more worried when Leia disappears because, yes, Obi-Wan will bring her back but they’ll have always gotten into trouble in the meantime.)
Yoda does not confront Darth Sidious. Yoda does not lose his duel with the Sith lord and become diminished because of it. Yoda is with Obi-Wan, sneaking into his stronghold to see the twins safe. Yoda cannot go Sith hunting when Luke is in pain and gently clinging to him, his arms around his neck, bruised and bleeding and smiled at Yoda when he saw him because Luke knew he would come.
(Sidious cannot win, with them. Leia would risk her home being obliterated rather than betray her righteous cause. Luke would willingly walk into flames rather than give up on those he loves. It hurts, oh it hurts, to see the other in pain, but Leia can watch Luke being hurt and know there are more important things at stake than the two of them and Luke can watch Leia being hurt and trust that they will be saved.)
Sidious escapes but his Empire falls before it solidifies. He will never be as powerful as he needs to be.
(It’s Anakin who notices there is something wrong with the clones. He’s not their General but Obi-Wan is and Obi-Wan is a good general. When Obi-Wan is hurt, they’re all nosey and worried and Anakin – all but glued to his former Master’s bedside when it’s really bad and first and foremost a mechanic – can tell that something is wrong. He’s not always with them so it never becomes familiar, it never becomes normal, and it niggles at the back of his brain until he’s sitting in front of Obi-Wan’s bacta tank – old training bond humming between them because Obi-Wan hates drugs and hates being sedated and he stays quieter and heals faster if Anakin is there to keep him calm – and Rex walks in to check on the General and Anakin turns around to look at him and he sees it.
The Jedi Order quietly deprograms the clone army. They trace the chip back to Palpatine. Padme and Bail Organa and Mon Mothma start quietly amassing information against him and his allies – enough for criminal charges, pushing Sidious to show his hand and try to kidnap the twins.)
Obi-Wan takes Leia as his Padawan the second she’s old enough for it to be proper. They are scarily well matched. If he was the Jedi’s best hope to keep planets from succeeding during the war, together they can talk whole systems into rejoining the rebuilding Republic.
Yoda leaves Luke in the crèche until the day before his thirteenth birthday. Everyone is worried except Luke (who knows he is meant to be a Jedi and knows Master Yoda is meant to teach him and trusts this, since he was raised in the Temple. It’s easier to have faith when you’ve always had it and it’s never been wrong). Fourteen Jedi have tried to ask him to be their apprentice. Yoda bashed twelve of them over the head with his stick before they could and Luke turned two down himself, the last three days before his birthday. He spends his last day as a twelve-year old following his dad around, both of them a little clingier than usual. Anakin has always thought that Yoda intended to take Luke as his Padawan but he’s literally hours from aging out and he’s seriously considering comming Ashoka and begging her to come act as backup, when Luke suddenly hugs Anakin hard and quick and Anakin looks over and sees Yoda waiting in the doorway.
Anakin hugs Luke back very, very tightly and then he lets him go. Luke already has his few things packed and waiting. Yoda harrumphs at him. “Ready, you are, padawan mine?”
Luke’s smile is blinding. “Yes, Master.”
Leia talks star systems into rejoining the Republic. Luke returns the Fallen to the Jedi. Dooku is the first and most fleeting (having not been killed by Anakin) – having been betrayed and split from Sidious – Luke finds him when he’s dying and gets Yoda to him in time for him to pass them information on Sidious’ new schemes and die a Jedi, with his old master at his side. There are others, after that, who Fell during the war and didn’t think they could ever return from it. Luke, bright and shiny and full of faith, sees them, thinks, I can fix this, and brings them home one by one.
After the second Return, which is unavoidably public, Leia and Obi-Wan look at each other and enlist everyone they can to begin working to make Luke the new poster boy for the Order. Luke is intensely embarrassed by this and a bit bumbling and shy about it, which just makes it more attractive to everyone. It also keeps the spotlight well away from their rebuilding efforts, which are way easier when there’s less press exposure.
Sidious, who would still like to capture and corrupt the twins, eventually stops trying with Luke because there’s only a 50/50 anyone he sends after him will come back and between years of Yoda’s training (ie dodging his stick), Luke’s innate Force sense and his dumb luck he’s practically impossible to kill.
(Sidious dies ignobly at the hands of a new apprentice, one of the Fallen who Luke has been trying to save. His defeat was always going to be someone else’s redemption.)
#I HAVE SO MANY FEELS ABOUT THIS META#GUYS#Luke getting to be Yoda’s Padawan properly MAKES ME SO HAPPY#Obi-Wan and Leia are a DREAM TEAM#They are FRIGHTENING TOGETHER#PADME IS SO PROUD#LUKE IS A LITTLE BALL OF WHINY SUNSHINE AND YODA JUST DELIGHTS HIM#MACE LAUGHS AT YODA FOREVER ABOUT IT#UNTIL BEN FUCKING SOLO COMES ALONG AND MACE IS ALL MOTHERFUCKER#I am also going to have to write that piece of meta because Ben as Mace Windu’s Padawan ARGH#I WANT TO WRITE ALL THE STORIES IN THIS VERSE (via @dreamer-wisher-liar)