Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lindsey Learns... About Mood

This feature is based on whatever I am reading at the moment (so, yes, you are at the mercy of my readerly whims) and whatever I happen to learn as I am reading. My goal is to write about it and then open the subject up for discussion in the comments. Please come on along for the ride!


It was a dark and stormy night...
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Mood.  Tone.  Is it set up at the beginning of your novel?  Do we know where we stand pretty quickly?  Do we need to? I just finished reading Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and without spoiling anything, I can pretty easily say that the book's mood is helpless.  The Unconsecrated (zombies, if you haven't read it yet) are kept out of the town by fences.  Those same fences keep all the people in.  And there is constant worry that eventually the Unconsecrated will breach the fences.  It's only a matter of time.  Helpless.

This doesn't mean that the main character, Mary, is helpless.  Her own moods and hopes rise and fall with the conflicts that she faces personally throughout the story.  Sometimes her life is focused on other things, and as readers, we are vaguely reminded of the constant moaning and rattling of the Unconsecrated at the fence.  Sometimes she is in the middle of Very Dangerous Zombie Smackdown with Potential Death. (I was going to put a zombie pic here but... they are pretty nasty!  And my 3 yr old is right here... lol)

My current WiP is getting a complete redo.  I started it last January, abandoned it, and restarted it at the end of the year.  I've re-outlined, reworked, and started the writing from scratch.  I have a few major decisions to make before my writing can seriously continue, mood being one of them. 
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I'm trying to decide right now what the overall mood of the writing should be.  A big part of that is nailing down my MC's voice, because the lens through which she views events will obviously affect the mood of the story.  What I liked a lot about the mood in Carrie Ryan's book is that you feel the blanket of depression surrounding Mary even when Mary herself is not feeling that way.  It's the mood of the situation, of the general populace, of the setting.  Her book starts long after the world becomes zombified.

My book is a little different, the people in the story discover the problem around the same time that my MC does and the situation goes from typical to bleak over time.  Working on that mood shift is delicate - I have to make it realistic, not zero to panic mode in 60 seconds, and not so gradual that it's boring - while my own character's specific conflicts will work into, with, against that backdrop.  Sometimes she will fall into the overall mood and other times she will fight against it.

 (For the record, I am reading another book where in one sentence it talks in first person about the MC's "big, open, genuine smile" and then in the next sentence he slams something on the ground because he is so mad.  Mood of me, the reader?  Totally confused about mood of the MC and of the story  in general!)
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The biggest struggle I have with mood is that I don't have big chunks of time in which to write (hence  my 100 word a day goal) and it's hard to get enough into the mood myself with the time I have.  I know a lot of you have soundtracks to write by, but as much as I love music, that's not really how I work.  I'm hoping that the further I get into it, the more naturally I will slip into the mood.

So let's talk mood.  What is the underlying mood of your WiP?  Have you ever found a book that doesn't seem to have a consistent mood?  A book where mood is like a character, the way setting can be?  An author who sets mood extremely well?

21 comments:

Carol Riggs said...

Very nice discussion of mood! I've read The Forest of Hands and Teeth and know exactly what you're talking about there. Tricky, what you're trying to do with your WIP. If I were writing that, I'd throw in tinges and hints of the bleaker stuff all along, to help the transition. That way it will be more believable when you switch. Like it's sunny (figuratively) but there are those darker clouds by the horizon...

Good luck!

aspiring_x said...

you say writing to music doesn't help... but how about art? maybe if you could find a few inspirational pictures that fit the particular mood you are going for, you could view them quickly at the beginning of you writing jam session to help push you into the mood you need. i use music but art could work just as well... or words! you could pick a few quotes that set your mind into the fitting mood.
as for the general mood of the novel- i think of it as an aspect of setting, and setting as a character of its own. a dynamic setting is more interesting than a static one- as a dynamic character is more interesting than a static one... well to me that is. i remember your flash you wrote for the fairytale blogfest mostly because of the vivid imagery and mood you captured... so i think that mood is somethig you excel at... well, if this wip is like that flash!! :) best of luck to you! yay! :)

storytreasury said...

That's a tricky balance, hitting exactly the right note like that.

It's a good question; I am not sure what the underlying mood of the novel in progress is. The MC is not a happy person, that's for sure, a little depressed and bitter.

Jemi Fraser said...

I think the moods in most of my stories swing between suspenseful and happy. I have to add more angst!

Dangerous With a Pen said...

Carol - Thanks! I like your ideas on adding background nuances to shift mood. The way I have it outlined, I'm hoping the mood shifts naturally as the story progresses. Fingers crossed...

Vic - What a smart idea! I love the idea of finding pieces of art that will get me into the right frame of mind. The difficulty I have using music is that I need quiet when I write, and I sometimes only have 10-20 minutes at a stretch to scribble down a few sentences, so I don't want to try to fit in listening to music and then getting quiet and writing. Plus, for me, music conjures up very specific stories, and if they are not the story I am working on, I am thrown completely off! :) But art I could have handy and just keep in my writing area for instant mood settage... I definitely think I'll look for some pictures that would work!

Dangerous With a Pen said...

storytreasury (love that name!) - that's sort of what I'm trying to work out, too. I wrote in past tense initially, but my character and the mood in general I think needs to have an innocence at the beginning of my story that can't really be achieved if she is telling the story after the fact. That's the exact reason I've been toying with switching to first person present tense, to try to synch up voice and mood better.

Jemi - Mood swings! Hehe :)

roxy said...

Hey, Lindsey! I love the pictures. Very mood-evoking. I am currently rewriting a sad, dark yet redemptive story. I don't love it, but I think it will sell before the novel I wrote first that I really like. Ah, well. Thanks for dropping round my classics corner. :)

Kristin Rae said...

ohhhhh the forest... that Carrie Ryan.. she sure can make a reader want to throw the book across the room, huh?? ;) Just wait until you read the sequel.. let's just say, I'm on pins and needles for the third coming later this year!!

The mood of my current WIP is confusion, at least that's what I'm going for. Then it will morph into sadness somewhere along the line, then into resentment, then there will be a fight for happiness!! :) hahahaha. Thanks for reminding me that I must be mindful of that!!

Dangerous With a Pen said...

Roxy - I hope you end up getting all wrapped up in your story and loving it eventually. :) You're such a talented writer, I understand your struggle between writing what you want and writing what might be most salable. Best of luck with both!

Kristin - I will definitely read the sequel. It wasn't my favorite book but it kept drawing me back in. My 8 yr old is creeped out by the cover, lol. Sounds like you have a definite sense of where you are going with your WiP. I feel like I do, too... let's hope it comes out that way as I write it! :)

Hannah Kincade said...

hmmm, I'm not sure what my mood would be, I haven't thought about it though. I'm not done with the first draft though and I like to ponder those things when it's whole. to be continued...

Old Kitty said...

Ooh I've never thought of mood in my writing in such a way!! Oooh got me thinking now. Mood!! I guess in my current wip, my mood is that of futile inevitability! I hope anyway!! :-)

Take care
x

Googlover/keishua said...

A great discussion. I typically chose the books I read by moods. I also hope to convey a certain mood and tone in my writing.

Dangerous With a Pen said...

Hannah - Are you writing horror? I would love to read a horror YA!

Kitty - Sounds like dystopia, my favorite! :D Is that the genre you are writing?

Googlover/keishua - I often choose that way, too, which is probably why certain covers lure me in and others don't - they have to reflect the mood I'm feeling like reading. :) Probably why the last 3 books I read have been pretty bleak overall (What the Dickens, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Replacement). Still reading the third, but I think I am ready for something with a little different mood next...

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

FOTHAT was incredible! So fast paced and eerie, and yes, helpless! It's not often a book pulls me in quite like that one, and about zombies at that!

My own book feels a bit helpless at times, and dark, but oddly enough, I'd like to think the overall mood is hopeful. Hm, I don't know. Maybe I'd have to ask one of my readers.

Good luck with your WIP! Good on you for getting back to it!

Donna Hole said...

Mood is important. I guess mine is desperate, though I try to lighten it once in a while so the reader feels hope and empowerment.

You're right though, mood is hard to sustain.

.......dhole

OH BTW: I got the prize today in the mail. What a lovely treat that was. Thank you :)

Steph Sinkhorn said...

I've read many places that your reader should have an idea about the book they're about to read after the first page... and I'd say that's pretty good advice :) It's unsettling and almost irritating when a book seems to start out in one direction and rapidly switches gears. It CAN be done masterfully, but I've rarely seen it happen.

I like talking mood :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Hmmm. Now you've got me thinking. The moods in my novels do change, depending on what's going on. But they aren't 'Oh my God, where did that come from?'mood changes.

Dangerous With a Pen said...

I just started reading another book where the mood is sort of "uh oh" at all times but the MC is very optimistic. The book is Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor. A quick read but a good one!

storyqueen said...

I am amidst a revision right now, and I haven't reread it for mood...but now I'm gonna!

Thanks!

Shelley

The Las Vegas Writer said...

This is a great post! Mood is definitely important. Glad I found your blog!

Rebecca T. said...

Ooh.. haven't thought about mood in this way. It's something I'm still trying to figure out in my WIP. My biggest problem is consistency, which I think I'm improving on since I nailed down my characters' motivations. Good post.