On Setting the Mood

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I’m reading The Help right now. Well, okay actually I’m listening to the audio book. Yesterday there was a scene where a character was going over to another character’s house to talk. The scene was tense, awkward, and even a bit suspenseful because we weren’t sure what was going to happen during the conversation.

As I listened, I was struck by how the author used the description of the room the women were in to highlight the tense, suspenseful tone of the meeting. I don’t have the book in front of me to quote from, so I hope you will forgive me for a paraphrase. What I remember most was the description of the color of the walls, the lighting in the room itself, and the window shades.

The color was brown, and the room was dark. The window let in almost no light because the shades were drawn together and pinched together in the middle. The lamp cast a gloomy shadows on the walls.

All of this created an atmosphere of distrust and awkwardness, as previously stated. I found myself taking on those same feelings of discomfort. The tense tone of the scene would not have been nearly so effective if the room was bright, with pink walls and sunshine streaming in through the windows. My point here is that while there is something to be said for excessive description, there is also something so wonderful about using the surroundings to mirror the tone of the characters in that scene. You as the writer have a chance to be creative with how you use lighting and props to pull readers into a particular scene.

It’s important to remember that just because readers can’t physically see the scene like they can while watching a play or a movie, YOU have the power to make the scene come to life. The only thing you’re limited by is your own creativity.

5 thoughts on “On Setting the Mood

  1. Hello Amanda, l have a question. would it be better for you to read it instead of using audio? why did you choose to listen, instead of reading it? isn’t the point of becoming a better writer that you read everything and anything?

    • That’s a good question. This is the first audio book I’ve ever listened to. I thought I would get an audio book to listen to on my drives to and from work, and it actually makes the drive much more fun! I chose “The Help” only because I was walking around the library browsing the books on CD, and this one caught my eye because I recognized the title. I definitely don’t think an audio book is quite the same as actually reading it, but I also think listening to a book on tape is better than not “reading” any books at all. I won’t stop reading books by any means, but I definitely will continue to listen to books on tape during my commute.

  2. I was delighted to hear you’re embracing audio books, as I’ve been a fan of this medium for some time. As you say, it’s better to audiobook than not to ‘read’ books at all. For me, audiobooks fill time that couldn’t be filled by reading books, such as when I’m getting up in the morning or driving. Sometimes a book can be enriched by the quality of the narration too, adding an extra dimension. My feeling is there’s no reason not to have several media on-the-go: reading books for the pure original pleasure, Kindle/e-books for when space is a premium, and audiobooks for the joy of listening.

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