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Creating mood/atmosphere?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by WordyWonderland, Mar 1, 2019.

  1. WordyWonderland

    WordyWonderland Scribe

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    Hey, guys!

    Bestseller novels have a fit mood. Why should a horror story have a happy mood? Why should a comedy story have a dramatic atmosphere? It doesn’t fit! But how do you create one? I mean, I can describe my character’s face or the weather around him, it doesn’t create a mood, which can be felt by the reader. So, do u have any tips for me?
     
  2. Firefly

    Firefly Troubadour

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    Word choice plays a big part in creating mood. Think of the phrases "looming trees", "tall trees" and "ginormous trees". The first sounds ominous, the second is kind of bland, and the third sounds like something from a playful children's book. Choices in metaphor and comparison can pull a lot of weight here as well--think "her lipstick was blood red" vs "Her lipstick was cherry red".

    You can also build up a tone by using multiple "beats" that fit that tone. I learned this concept from September Fawkes, and I think she explains it better than I can, so here's a link to a post on her blog where she talks about it: Exactly How to Create and Control Tone ~ September C. Fawkes

    One writing exercise I really like for practicing tone is to take something and try to describe it so it creates an opposite feel from what you'd expect. (Making a child's birthday party sad, or a funeral fun, or something like that). I find it really teaches you to pay attention to the details you use.
     
    TheCrystallineEntity likes this.
  3. WordyWonderland

    WordyWonderland Scribe

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    FireflyFirefly Ok. I checked it so far. But how about the setting? Hogwarts has a different mood and atmosphere than the St. Vladimir Academy from the book Vampire Academy. I mean, it's a different mood if my character run away from a poodle instead of a serial killer. (Ok. It would be more or less the same if it's a ZOMBIE poodle. But hey!)
     
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Mood is created by everything. It's the choice of setting--weather, time of day, indoors or outdoors, season, all of it. Mood is created by word choice by the author. By dialogue--what the characters choose to talk about, and how they talk about it. It's created by the action of the story. And it's more than just created, mood is sustained by these things. It's something that must carry right through the story.

    And it's more complicated than that because unless you are writing a short story, you will want to have an overall tone to the book--comedy, epic, grim--but you don't want the entire book to be one mood because that would quite literally be monotonous. So you have to introduce other moods within the dominant mood, like changing keys in a symphony.

    First and foremost, you have to feel the mood yourself. You have to develop the skill of being right there at the side of your characters even as you are standing back manipulating scene, word choice, dialogue, and the rest of it.

    Writing is easy. Anyone can do it and nearly everyone does. Writing well is hard.
     
  5. Firefly

    Firefly Troubadour

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    I think part of the difference between the two situations is in the stakes and the way the author treats consequences. Like how grittier fantasy includes things like dying of infection and other horrific consequences that might just be ignored in something more light hearted. If someone gets stabbed by a serial killer and the author portrays it as being intensely painful and permanently affecting their health, that's very different from having a character be stabbed and then be spouting off more witty banter ten seconds later. Heavy, far reaching stakes have a much more serious tone.

    But it's also just the feel those particular concepts have. All else being equal, a zombie poodle still has a more jokey feel to it than a serial killer because the word "poodle" has a very different connotation that the word "killer". (And is also humorous because zombies and poodles are to concepts that do not usually go together).
     
  6. WordyWonderland

    WordyWonderland Scribe

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    FireflyFirefly Actually, it's ridiculous to be bitten by a poodle. But it was just an example.
     
  7. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    I agree with this but would add on rhythm, flow, character development, dialogue, and plot movement. Pretty much, you aim to create mood and emotion in every scene otherwise you risk having a story that is soulless.

    Suppose the best advice I could give is that you need to know the purpose of a scene before you write it. How does it best fit into the story? How *should* it fit in? An example: in my WIP, I introduced the heroine to the home she will be living in with the hero. It's a nice place by outward appearances but the mansion has a lot of secrets. In order to provide the reader with some perspective, mood, if you will, I describe the mansion's grandeur as she approaches the front of it but also describe how isolated she feels realizing that the house is bordering a vast marsh and is a long way from the nearest town. This gives the reader an idea that yes, the mansion may be beautiful, but it's isolated for a reason (inhabited by a werewolf family), and they have plenty of scenes that come before it setting that tone of mystery already.

    Then there's always what Svrtnsse and others here say, which I agree with, that readers will have their own ideas by using their imaginations anyway.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2019
  8. MrBrightsider

    MrBrightsider Scribe

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    I'll throw my two cents in here: mood is created by the reader projecting themselves onto a character (usually the protagonist) and feeling what that character is feeling.

    One of the reasons people read is to experience thrills and tensions vicariously through fictional people: it's a lot safer to watch Indiana Jones run away from a boulder than to run from one yourself, and watching him still gives you the sense of joyful suspense. Similarly, one of the reasons readers read is to experience the emotions that the characters in a story experience. In order to do that, they have to connect with the character (or characters) of the book.

    Doing that also makes them susceptible to the same emotions that the character is feeling. Therefore, to evoke a mood and atmosphere from the reader, you could do a lot worse than evoking it from your characters. If your main character is scared out of their mind, begging for their life, and your reader likes them, chances are that reader will be in a similar state hoping the dude they like isn't about to get his limbs ripped off.
     
  9. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >Actually, it's ridiculous to be bitten by a poodle.

    A standard poodle is nothing to mess with. Bred as a hunting dog and a long way from a toy poodle.
     
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