How To Get Moody In Your Story

So, I’ve been talking a lot about creating the atmosphere or mood in a story because it’s really super important. Two weeks ago, I talked a bit about creating mood or atmosphere in your story, and last week, I shared some cool ideas from other humans.

This week we’re going to summarize and expand a little bit. So, let’s get moody together.

SETTING

Talking about the world outside your character really helps people get the mood of the story.

But to do that effectively you need . . .

MOODY WORDS

Seriously. Word choice is key when creating atmosphere and mood.

I walked to the bar. I ordered a drink. I sipped it.

Pretty dull, right? Kind of reads like bad stage directions. But look what happens when we start trying to show the character’s mood and the atmosphere of the setting.

I sashayed to the bar’s disco-ball lit corner.

“One super hot and sexy turtleneck sweater with extra cuddles,” I announced to the super hot and sexy bartender. He took my credit card with five quick fingers and a wink.

Two seconds later, the warm mug was in my hand, the smell of mint and rum wafting into my nose.

Let’s try another mood.

My feet stuck to the beer-soaked, beer-dried, beer-imbued wooden floor as I pushed past the giant football players that formed a wall between me and the most disgusting, germ-filled objective in my recent future: the make-shift, plywood dorm room bar that Bill and Ted set up in the edge of their quad.

“Dude? You want some?” Bill surfer drawled when I got past the barrio of testosterone and Axe body spray. He held out the keg’s hose. Something brown crusted near the nozzle. Something brown that was definitely not beer.

Swallowing hard, I managed to stay upright as someone pushed behind me. My palm struck the plywood. A splinter tore into the flesh and stuck there.“Yeah. Yeah, I guess I do.”

The difference here is the details and the words, right? In both bits someone wants a drink and goes to the bar to get there but they are very different moods.

A walk is not a sashay is not a tiptoe is not a gallop is not a slog. Whenever you can use verbs, nouns, adjectives and details that convey how your character feels.

To become a magistrate of words, you can check out a thesaurus. It feels like cheating, but it’s super helpful.

Those little word choices are subconscious hints to the reader that tells them things. They think, “Oh, sashaying, how happy they must be, how confident.”

Dialogue

When our characters talk to other people and they are the thrilling or overbearing or confusing or just plain quirky or mean, it helps create the mood that’s happening in the story.

If your characters have to whisper that can change the mood. The same goes for yelling, screeching, singing, preaching.

Sentence Structure and White Space

Readers subconsciously pick up on a lot of things that us writers put out and one of those things is sentence structure and white space (the part of the page where no words are).

The shorter the sentences, the higher the tension and faster the pace the reader goes over that page. That can make things feel more tense, more agitated, more suspenseful.

The longer the sentence and bigger the paragraph creates a more languid feel and slower mood that the reader has.

DO NOT TELL THE READER THINGS.

In my example of the bar earlier, one of the main differences is I didn’t do a ton of telling what they were doing. But I did in that first example where there was no mood:

I walked to the bar. I ordered a drink. I sipped it. I felt happy because I was going to get a drink and was looking forward to that Shirley Temple.

The details that us writers choose are meant to show the reader things rather than constantly telling the reader things.

I pretty much sashayed over to the bar, hand up, credit card out. “Hey, girlie!” My voice skipped over to Donna of Shirley Temple mixing fame. “I am so ready for my daily fix!”

Different right? I never say that she’s happy, but we can feel that she’s happy. And that’s what atmosphere and mood is really all about. We want to make the reader feel things.


Let’s set the mood, part two: getting atmosphere in your story

WRITING TIPS ARE GOOD THINGS!

Last week, we talked a bit about creating mood or atmosphere in your story, and this week, I’m going to share some cool ideas from other humans.

What? I do not know everything? Gasp!!!!

boy wearing gray vest and pink dress shirt holding book
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Sadly, I do not. For instance today I wrote that Acadia National Park has a million visitors. It has four million. Did I know this? Yes. Did I write it? No.

Did someone tell me immediately?

Yep.

Thanks to that person for letting me fix my mistake.

dog biting Thank You mail paper
Photo by Howie R on Unsplash

The thing is I am really human and that means I try to juggle a lot of things and sometimes I make errors. I try to tell myself that this is okay. That in a billion years (or 100) nobody will remember me or my errors. Usually that works. But not today.

But all of this just means:

1.     I don’t trust myself today.

2.     You get to read curated advice from cooler people instead. That’s a win!

Here, this first is from MasterClass. It’s kind of beautiful and pretty concise like art that you get off Ballard Designs.

white pillar candle on white table
Photo by Stephanie Harvey on Unsplash

3 Tips for Creating Mood for Your Story via MasterClass (these three tips are all a direct quote):

  1. Use a holistic approach to mood. Since mood is made up of a combination of setting, tone, word choice, and theme, it’s important that you as a writer think about all four while you work. If you try to use only one of these tools, you’re severely limiting your ability to create a believable and pervasive mood for your story. A good rule of thumb is to shoot for at least three of these tools to establish your mood.
  2. Brainstorm mood words. If you’re drawing a blank when it comes to how to create a particular mood, it can help to brainstorm a list of mood words. For instance, if you know you want your story to have a creepy mood, then try making a list of different words that feel creepy to you, like these: gloomy, creak, tiptoe, moonlight, skittering, shadow, rattling. Once you’ve got a good list, pick a few of your favorites and include them in the scene.
  3. Subvert expectations. While it’s easy to go with the “expected” mood for your stories (for instance, that a story about a wedding will have a lighthearted, celebratory mood), remember that it’s not always the best choice. When you push yourself to subvert readers’ expectations, you can come up with creative and exciting combinations—for example, a wedding story with a foreboding mood, or a ghost story with a funny mood. Innovating with mood can help you create memorable, lasting writing.”

Let’s dive a tiny bit deeper into that first tip. Do I trust myself enough for that? Um, not really. Here goes anyway.

Setting is where the story is located or “set.” Set = setting, so clever a language English is.

Tone isn’t about the reader. Mood is. Tone is about the narrator and the attitude they are putting down about the events.

Word choice is pretty self-explanatory. It’s the words that you the author put on the page. Short words can make things staccato. Long words can make things mellifluous. Swear words can make things tense, emphatic or even humorous.

Theme. That’s what the story is about and what it’s trying to convey. A story that true love exists and that it will save the world and all the cavorting hamsters within it? That’s going to be part of the mood and atmosphere of the story.

So, when MasterClass is talking about how these elements work (in tip #1), the MasterClass staff authors of that blog post is just saying to weave it all together and make it create that atmosphere.


LINK TO LEARN MORE:

Welcome To 2023, Writers

Let’s kick some butt (in a chill, non aggressive way)

Photo by Johnny Briggs on Unsplash

Hey! Thanks so much for being kind about me not posting during the holidays. It really helped be think about what and how to be helpful. I appreciate it a lot and you can expect some new things this year from me. Fingers crossed. I’m going to try to be braver about sharing advice and information and thoughts.

So . . .

Recently, a really popular YouTube author gave out some editing advice. She’s cool. She’s pretty. She’s sarcastic and fun. She’s promoting her own book.

But she also is a little bit wrong this go around because she says the first step in a professional edit is the developmental edit.

It isn’t. Not always.

The first step is often an editorial assessment. Then you revise. Then if you have a butt-ton of money because your daddy is rich and your mother’s good looking, you can hush like a little baby, don’t cry, and get a developmental edit.

Or . . .

You can realize that the first step in a developmental edit is an editorial assessment.

What are these two shiny bits of editing bling?

What is this developmental edit? An editorial assessment?

Let’s use Reedsy’s definitions, okay? Reedsy is a massive platform that connects authors to editors and other freelance professionals and makes sure that those freelancing professionals don’t suck. Full disclosure: I was recruited for Reedsy a couple of years ago and I make money there.

Here’s what that platform (that includes 1 million authors and 2,500 freelancers like me) says about those two styles:

“Editorial Assessment. This is a popular and cost-effective first step for authors, ideal for those at an early stage of their rewrites. Editors offering an editorial assessment will usually:

  • Read and analyze your manuscript;
  • Provide an evaluation in the format of a report, covering all aspects of the story, structure, and commercial viability;
  • Offer suggestions to guide your rewrites.”

And then . . .

“Developmental Editing. A nose-to-tail structural edit of your manuscript for authors who have taken their book as far as they can by themselves. A developmental edit often includes everything in an editorial assessment, plus:

  • Detailed recommendations to improve “big picture” concerns like characterization, plot, pacing, setting, etc.;
  • Specific guidance on elements of writing craft;
  • In-line suggestions and edits in the manuscript.”

So, you could go with a YouTuber’s definition or a platform’s. Totally up to you. But that’s the thing: a lot of people get a lot of money creating edicts for those of us who don’t know better.

They say:

  • These are the best ways to write.
  • These are the worst ways to write.
  • These are the best ways to start your story.
  • These are the worst ways to start your story.

And it’s all absolutes.

Here’s the thing (and I’m going to sound absolute here):

Art and writing aren’t about absolutes. There is diversity of thought and culture and literature and perception. It shouldn’t all be ‘my way or the highway.’ Your psychographics, your family, your culture, your education, your location, your gender identity, race, religion, all create who you are and your story.

Don’t Lose Yourself

When you’re trying to get published or trying to get a ton of readers, you can sometimes lose yourself and your story in the process of listening to those edicts. Stay true, okay? Learn and grow, but don’t accept absolutely everything that an influencer says as gospel. The world and you and your story is bigger than that.

Here is a photo of my cat, Koko,judging me for losing myself in the past.

WRITING PROMPTS

Because I was just talking about Reedsy, I’m going to take one from there. Thanks, Reedsy!

Your character always makes the same promise; to change. Will they finally make it happen this time?

Write a story about someone scrambling on New Year’s Eve to fulfil their resolutions for the entire year before the clock strikes twelve.

You can submit your stories at those links as well. And enter a weekly contest.

SUBMISSION POSSIBILITY FOR THIS WEEK

SALT HILL PUBLISHES POETRY, FICTION, TRANSLATIONS, ESSAYS, INTERVIEWS, AND VISUAL ART. Oh my.

“We have two submission periods for fiction and poetry:

December through January

August through September

“We accept nonfiction and art submissions year-round.

“Salt Hill accepts only online submissions via Submittable for poetry, fiction, nonfiction and reviews. For visual art submissions, see below. Most, if not all, of our published work is selected from unsolicited submissions.

“We accept simultaneous submissions, but ask that you alert us as soon as possible if your work is placed elsewhere by either adding a note to your submission through Submittable or withdrawing the full submission.

“We ask that you submit only once per genre per reading period.

“Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond individually to submission status queries. We aim to respond to submissions within three to six months.

“Unfortunately, we are not in the position to offer payment to our writers.

“Curious about what we like? Grab one of our issues, or take a dip through our online archive.

POETRY:

“Please submit no more than five poems at a time, in one document.”

FICTION:

“Please do not submit works of more than 30 pages. We accept multiple flash pieces, so long as their combined length does not exceed 30 pages. Please double space, unless the nature of your work requires special formatting.”

NONFICTION:

“The nonfiction we are interested in pushes the boundaries of the genre, making use of the techniques of fiction and poetry to tell a true story. We want memories, arguments, meditations, revelations, philosophical rants. Salt Hill is a literary journal, so please don’t send us articles or reports. We will consider nonfiction for both our print journal and our website.”

There you go! Let’s go kick some butt in 2023 or make some beautiful music or just really craft our stories the best way we can: piece by piece, word by word, hope by hope.

We’ve got this.

This content and other writing tips, etc. is over here, too.

Writing

Writing Life

Writing Tips

Fiction Writing

Grammy Barnard Poem: A DREAM

Carrie Does Poems
Carrie Does Poems
Grammy Barnard Poem: A DREAM
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Hi! This year (2023), I’m continuing my quest to share a poem on my blog and podcast and read it aloud. It’s all a part of my quest to be brave and apparently the things that I’m scared about still include:

  1. My spoken voice
  2. My raw poems.

Thanks for being here with me and cheering me on, and I hope that you can become braver this year, too!


Hey, thanks for listening to Carrie Does Poems.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Eric Van der Westen and the track is called “A Feather” and off the album The Crown Lobster Trilogy.


I say all that, but sometimes I feature a Grammy Barnard Poem. Grammy Barnard died at the age of 102 and I was the youngest child by a lot of her youngest child, so in my head she was always older. I think she was in her 70s when I was born.

These poems make me feel a bit closer to her, allow me to imagine her in her 30s. And I like being able to do that. So, here’s a Grammy Barnard poem.

Grammy Barnard Poem

Hey, thanks for listening to Carrie Does Poems.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Eric Van der Westen and the track is called “A Feather” and off the album The Crown Lobster Trilogy.

Weather vs Whether

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
Weather vs Whether
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It’s sexy to know the difference.

This podcast delves into the difference between weather, whether and (God forbid!) wether.

Come hang out for a quick writing tip.

Thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out my substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the other tips and submission opportunties and exercises are there.

Cause and Effect in Novel Writing

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
Cause and Effect in Novel Writing
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Last week, I took a little break because of the holiday in the U.S., but this week, we’re talking about cause and effect in fiction novels.

Troubleshooting Your Novel by Steven James has a big section about this:

He suggests asking yourself these questions to fine-tune your story.

  • “Do realizations or insights occur after the event that caused them (as would naturally happen), or do I have things in the wrong order?
  • “Does this scene move from cause to effect? If not, why not? Can I tweak the story to show the natural flow of events rather than stop after they’ve happened to explain why they did?
  • “Does context dictate that I reverse the order to effect to cause? Rendering the story this way will force readers to ask, “Why?” Do I want them to do so at this moment in the book? Would lack of clarity about the character’s intention help readers engage with the story at this point? If it won’t, how can I recast it?
  • “What will I do to ensure that each ball rolls naturally away from the one that just hit it, both in action sequences and in dialogue?”

And for a quicker fix, he suggests:

“Analyze every scene, as well as every paragraph, to weed out cause-and-effect problems. Pinpoint the connections between events. Does each action have an appropriate consequence? Does the emotional resonance of a scene fit in congruently from the actions within that scene?”


Thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out my substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the other tips and submission opportunties and exercises are there.

LINKS TO LEARN MORE FROM THE SOURCES

https://www.writersdigest.com/there-are-no-rules/cause-effect-telling-story-right-order

Writing Isn’t About Being Clever; It’s About Story

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
Writing Isn't About Being Clever; It's About Story
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This week’s podcast focuses on some advice from Roy Peter Clark. I hope you’ll join me for one of our short weekly writing tips!

Thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out my substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the other tips and submission opportunties and exercises are there.

The Power of Personal Narrative

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
The Power of Personal Narrative
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Hi, I’m breaking format this week, for once. Our high school had a credible and serious threat yesterday, staff and teachers and kids were locked down for hours and I want to talk about how people telling their stories makes things much more real than cut-up newspaper reports.

And that’s important.

Don’t forget how powerful writing is, okay? Don’t forget how powerful you are either.

Making a Scene Memorable

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
Making a Scene Memorable
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This week’s podcast is some quick tips about how to make your scene memorable. I hope you’ll check it out.

QUICK EDIT! There was a glitch with the podcasting host, but it should be the right podcast now. Apologies!


Thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out my substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the other tips and submission opportunties and exercises are there.

BE BRAVE FRIDAY – NO JUDGEMENT

Ah, as many of you know, I get super stressed and major imposter syndrome about sharing anything artistic or doing anything where people can hear my voice.

And because of that I have a super hard time actually doing things like buying paint or canvas because it means I’m using money to make art rather than pay bills or buy pellets for winter. That’s why this painting is actually mixed media. I ran out of a lot of paint this week.

That’s okay.

Running out of a lot of paint and only having pretty low quality paint brushes is cool in a way because it pushes me. I have to think in different ways.

Life, I guess, is kind of like that, too.

I talked to someone this week that used to really intimidate me. They are smart and no holds barred. Sometimes that’s a scary combination in a person. And I used to have so much anxiety about talking to this person. But I did it. I talked to them. And you know what? It was good. I made a connection, I think. I had fun.

Why? Because I remembered that they are a person too.

“You used to be so fearful,” they said, which is really similar to something a local bookseller said to me last year.

And I think part of it is that I know how flawed I am. I can’t even remember to shut the closet door, but it’s okay. We are all flawed and imperfect and if people want to judge me? That’s okay, but I’m going to do my damn best not to judge them.

There’s a sort of freedom that comes with that realization—a freedom that I’m hoping will extend to me being able to share paintings and art. Because all my fear about art is about being not talented enough and being judged for that. That’s not really what life is about, is it? It’s not what art is about either.

Brené Brown said,“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

I have been super lucky lately because writing a local news blog has pushed me out of my hermit ways and I have a reason to find connection. I hope you find more and new ways to be brave, too.

My little art shop.

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