Creating a Mood
Being a published author I occasionally get novice writers asking me to read some of their work and comment on it. Sometimes I do (if I feel I have time), sometimes I decline. As you can imagine, I’ve read all kinds of writing. Some very, very good and I wonder, Why hasn’t this person landed a contract yet? and some . . . well, some that needs a lot of work.
One of the common threads I notice in those that need a lot of work is lack of mood. This is something I’ve learned through the writing of my three books thus far: Creating a mood for the reader is pivotal.
Every story should have a mood that it creates, whether it be suspense or horror or warm comfort or sweet love. Think about books you’ve read that have really captured you. Didn’t they create a mood in you.
Here’s some I think of: Stephen King’s stories carry a mood of creepiness (by the way, I think King is the master of this mood thing. He could write about a little girl playing dollies in the back yard and it would feel creepy); W. Dale Cramer and his southern fiction creates a mood of down home comfort and simple living; Nicholas Sparks’ stories create that mood of sweet, innocent love.
See what I mean? Mood is everything.
As a writer there are various techniques used to create that mood. Some include:
1) Word choice. Carefully chosen words that give the piece a desired feeling.
2) The colors chosen for a setting. This doesn’t follow any hard and fast rule but color does create mood so they might want to be used appropriately.
3) Sentence structure. Shorter sentences create that feeling of movement and suspense. Longer sentences slow things down and warm the reader a bit.
4) Paragraph structure. Same as above.
5) Appropriate metaphors and similes. This is a tough one and takes a lot of the pondering to get that right feeling out of mets and sims.
6) Dialogue of characters. Both what they say and how they say it.
Get the drift? Mood is something chosen by the author before the writing has begun. When you read a story and feel a certain way, that feeling, that mood was created intentionally.
Here’s what I suggest, the next time you read a novel, pay close attention to how you feel reading the story, what mood is created, then look for how that author encouraged that mood through his/her writing.