This week: Setting the MoodEdited by: Lonewolf
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One of the most difficult aspects of writing short stories is establishing the mood. Unlike in the case of novels, the writer has much less time to effectively describe the setting and characters and must do so in order for the plot to take off. A story consisting only of places and people would be boring because the reader has no vehicle via which to become involved in the story. The mood of a short story is established through detailed descriptions of the settings, people, and atmosphere of a story.
Setting the mood is important to a story because it draws the audience in by getting them to feel what the character feels. Whether this is in a very short story or a novel, it is just as important. The difference between the two is that in a short story you usually have time for only one. As you describe the location, the characters, and the action, the words you use can make your reader feel differently.
If you describe bright vibrant colors the reader imagines something different than if you were to describe dark, drab colors. Sounds and smells carry different impressions. Choices of one word over another should be made on the basis of how the reader will react to them.
How do you want your reader to feel as they read? Once you have decided this choose your words so that they increase these kinds of reactions. Whether you’re using metaphors, similes, description, action, or dialogue, the choice of words must be based on both the meaning and your intent as a writer.
If you need to set a certain mood in the story you must choose your words so that they all emphasize that specific mood.
If you are describing how a man is walking down a street, everything that you say about the street, the man and the way he walks set the mood. Your description of the street can emphasize the mood. In order to do this, you must imagine yourself following this man. What do you see?
Everything should match the mood you are trying to set. However, if you sent a man walking very slowly looking side to side down along a twisting dark lane between somber warehouses with dark blank windows, then you set the mood as rather ominous. Your reader is expecting something to happen that is not happy.
If you wrote that the alley smells of rotting garbage and fuel oil, your reader will feel like they would not like to be in that neighborhood. The readers can imagine those smells from memory, and the odds are that anywhere they remember being, and smelling those smells, was somewhere they would rather not have been. If you tell them that a rustling sound to the right in the darkness made the character look in that direction the mood becomes suspenseful.
The purpose of creating a mood for a scene is to allow the reader to experience the story as the character does. If the character is frightened then you should work to create fear in the reader.
When you don’t match the characters’ feelings with the mood, it can hurt your story. If your character is lost in the wilderness and you’re describing the beauty of nature, it won’t flow as well–imagine trying to jam together two puzzle pieces that don’t fit. Your reader might wonder why the character is admiring the trees and squirrels when he’s lost in the middle of nowhere. This will also keep the reader from fully feeling the character’s panic and fear of being lost. If you are writing about how much a character loves their significant other, you must set the mood for that. Sensual details from the setting can enhance the scenes in which your hero and heroine are falling in love, discovering each other.
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