Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mood Question -- Writing tip

Question:  Okay, I quit my last writers group and joined the one at the library instead.  These guys are more readers than writers, but they do read and give feedback and they do it without squabbling over grammar. One avid reader said she thought I needed to work on "mood." Any ideas what that means?

Answer: Well, I'd  have to guess.  But in general "mood" for a writer means the emotions you are trying to inspire in your reader. You don't make jokes at funeral scenes, kill off the likeable characters in a cozy mystery, or give a romantic hero an old war wound that leaves him incapable.

Consciously, or sub-consciously, it has to do with the details and images you choose and the words you use to describe what the reader sees, words have “feelings” as well and dictionary meanings. Back when I worked for Writer's Digest, they used to have an exercise where every student had to write three paragraphs set at an airport. One filled with excitement, such as a joyous reunion.  One with a sad mood, The scene like a sad good-bye, or one of intrigue -- anger lovers breaking up, or perhaps a body on the baggage carousel.  So the exercise is to write three different emotions, with the same setting. Airports look like Airports, right?

The exercise was meant for you to choose words that had the feeling you were trying to convey with the paragraph.  Let’s take the airport chairs as an example -- in the joyous reunion paragraph, they’d be a nice sunny orange, because that’s an exciting color. In the sad goodbye paragraph, the chairs would be “blue” because everybody gets the blues, and in the murder scene, they’d probably be black, or maybe red. Do you see what I mean?

Words have mood. The details you choose to mention lend a feeling or mood to the piece. At least  that's what I think she means.

1 comment:

  1. Arline, I remember that airport scene assignment with great fondness. It was a great exercise! I can even remember some of the exact details of each mood. It forced me to dig deep to create different moods. Thanks for the reminder!