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I’ve been working on a few writers’ stories this week and one of them actively asked me about this: about how to build the mood in your story.
So, creating an atmosphere for your story is something that happens via creating the setting of the story, but it’s more than just description. It’s about how your main character (protagonist) feels about that mood and the words that you choose to create that mood.
That was wordy.
Let me try again!
Atmosphere comes from:
1. The setting
2. The words that you use to describe that setting
3. How your main character feels about the setting
4. How you want your reader to feel about the setting
You want the mood, the atmosphere, to be part of the whole experience for your reader and your main character in the book, scene, and chapter.
The very first book I ever wrote (the one that won a lot of awards but made no money), had an atmosphere problem. And my editor told me this in a nice way that didn’t make me cry, which I appreciated.
He also told me to read Twilight and to read it just for setting and atmosphere.
I maybe balked a little bit, but I did it, and what Twilight had, which is also what gothic romances have, is a lot of mood and atmosphere and setting. We are there in the claustrophobic atmosphere, right?
So, how do you do that?
You pick your words.
If I write,
“Carrie looked out the window at the rain?”
it’s just sort of there. The rain helps, but it’s not a lot to make the atmosphere. Or to really control the mood for the reader.
If I write,
“the rain pelted against the window”
it does a bit more.
If I write,
“the rain drops kissed the window pane, merging together to make little streams going down, down, toward the sill, as one,”
it sounds like I’m writing a sex scene.
But you get it right? Those words make a difference. We have to choose the words to make the atmosphere we want, the mood we want. As my examples show, it can be boring, aggressive or sexy. You’re in charge, writer. You get to decide what the atmosphere will be.
I’m going to make a little series on this, I’ve just decided and I’ll go a bit deeper into some other tips about creating the atmosphere in your story.
But really? That first tip? Picking your words? It’s key because all the other tips revolve around that. We’re writers. Our tools are words. We can wield them like Thor’s mighty hammer or like a Q-tip, but the thing is that we have to wield them.
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