It was a dark and stormy night...
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.
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!)
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?