Saturday, December 16, 2006

Oh, Those Details!

There are so many things to think about when you're writing a book--plot, characters, POV, opening hooks, chapter hooks, dialogue, narrative, show-don't tell, and on and on. Well, here's one more--the mood of the story.

I'm not talking genre, like romance, mystery, horror, suspense, etc. A Romance can be eerie and gothic. Horror can be humorous. A Thriller can be tongue-in-cheek. By mood, I'm talking *atmosphere* of the book.

Think about the atmosphere you want to create for the plot, the characters, the setting. Then establish that mood through your use of details, the way you put words and sentences together, your use of the senses.

A character walks down a long hallway, dark and quiet. A clock sounds. Is it the deep bass bonging of a grandfather clock? Or is it the shrill clucking of a coo-coo clock?

The setting of a scene is a lawyer's office. How do you, as the writer, furnish the room? Big, heavy furniture; lots of wood; a Tiffany desk lamp? Is that all? Or is there, hidden among the knick-knacks, a worn-leather book on ancient incantations? One thing that throws the scene, the atmosphere, off-kilter.

Your character goes to church. What kind of church is it? You can't just say it's a big fancy church--you have to show us. And what you show us about this church sets the mood. Do we see the long pews, the floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows? Do we see a rubber duckie floating in the baptismal tank? Is the choir dressed in royal blue with white collars, or ill-fitting faded purple robes? Does conversation come to a deadly stop when a certain character enters? Does a cell phone ring during the sermon and we see a head of curly brown hair slide down in the pew?

Details, details.

Make them count.

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