It has been a while since I have posted a tip from my first blog series "5 Tips to Writing," and I figured the best way to get back into the driver's seat was to hop in and go. For this post we will be talking about the idea of mood. The exercises that we've been working on until this point have all helped to establish the mood of our writing. For example, tone, theme, plot, and dialogue all help to set the mood that a piece will take. Even the perspective a writer chooses to write in can drive a scene to be witty, dramatic, suspenseful or humorous. A mood will stick with a piece from beginning to end.
Dictionary.com defines it as "a prevailing emotional tone or general attitude." If a first-person narrative has a natural disdain for love, then that mood will be carried throughout the piece. It will affect how the main character reacts to those characters who try to love him, or the people he tries to love unsuccessfully. But, don't let this get you thinking that if you pick a mood, you're stuck, never allowing any humor in your piece. Flavor adds depth to any writing, and just as there are thousands of words in the dictionary so there are moods to match. Actually, that's not entirely true. What I mean is, well, have fun with your mood.
Choose Your Words Wisely
"Choose your words wisely, because they may be your last." When I first heard my mother say that, I imagined how angry I would make her by what I was about to say, then I wondered if I was going to live through the encounter. The words that a writer chooses will make or break the mood they are trying to set in a story. If you were to read a story where all the characters made humorous jabs at each other, you would not expect that story to be put on the same shelf as a horror book; nor would the opposite be true. A story must hold the mood throughout the piece. While there is room for subtle changes in the way characters interact, the overall tone of dread must be the same throughout a horror piece.
Find Your Mood
For the first part of the exercise we might have to use a little imagination, or a wonderfully diverse coffee shop setting. I like coffee shops the most because I can find a wide variety of inspiring things to watch while I am sitting in one for an afternoon. First, start by describing three or four facial expressions. What does laughter look like? How does anger look? The idea here is not so much about setting mood in a story, but understanding mood. Spend no more than 15 minutes on this piece. When you're done I would say spend the next 45 minutes writing a story in your favorite style of writing, like fantasy, suspense, science fiction, or comedy. Identify the mood that you will be writing in at the top of the page, then try to hold true to that mood throughout the story. Each of the four genres I mentioned can hold a wide variety of moods, but they each have their own twists and turns when it comes to trying to keep a consistent one.
If you're unsure by the end of your writing session on whether or not you kept the same tone, ask your friends or family members to try and pinpoint the intended mood. If they see the same mood, then you nailed it. If they have a hard time nailing down what the mood is then your piece needs more refinement.