My skin crawls at the thought of spiders, snakes, mice and creepy people. The whole shiver, rub your arms, curl in a corner and grab the strongest person in the room to defend you type skin crawling. Even after the moment has passed, I can look back and still feel the uneasiness of that moment as it is etched in my memory. Bet you’ve felt that way too.
Hollywood has it made. Creating movies they splash mood on the screen with visual images, lighting and music. It seems so much simpler than what we do as writers, but it’s probably not. They are the masters of mood, getting us to clutch our date’s arm, have nightmares, scream at the heroine and get us to start thinking of romance and marriage. So, how do they do it?
Movies layer in the senses through colors, music, objects and lighting. You might not have a stage, but we can incorporate the senses in layers into our scenes to create powerful mood segments that move our readers to respond.
Hollywood in Mood Layers:
*Pick An Emotion. All of the following layers will depend upon what emotion your lead character is feeling during this scene. Be more specific than just mad (ex. Annoyed, frustrated, livid, etc.).
*Pick the Setting. Some locations will match your mood better than others. A candy shop might feel romantic or a wedding reception, but you wouldn’t want to have a suspense scene there. For a suspense scene you might prefer a deserted house or empty warehouse.
*Pick the Setting Lighting. As writers we communicate this through weather, time of day, bright lighting or dim. Happy scenes should take place in Sunny or bright situations. Sad or suspenseful scenes will have darker lighting in our word choice and descriptions.
*Pick The Background Music. You may not be able to crank music in your reader’s ears, but you can write the sounds of the environment. The squeaky step, the tweet of lovebirds, the crash of the waves against the rocks. Think of what sounds in your scene would show the emotion you are trying to convey.
*Pick The Verbs. Whenever possible, let the verbs and other words you use in the scene reflect the emotion you are trying to convey. For example, if the mood of the scene is annoyed you might describe a sound like the buzz of a mosquito.
*Pick The Objects. The objects you choose to describe the setting should reflect the mood of the hero/heroine. If fear is involved, the character won’t notice the cozy blanket, they will notice the jagged edge of the broken mirror. The color of objects can also convey mood.
*Pick Fears. Use what you know of people’s fears to help create emotion. For example, people commonly fear snakes, mice, bats and spiders. A lot of suspense uses those animals to create more of the sense of skin crawling creepy. Try to pick a few that are more obscure, but create the same response.
*Pick Favorites. Use what you know about what people like to help create emotion. For example, chocolate and coffee have a response for most readers. Thoughts of romance and comfort.
*Pick Smell. This is one of the strongest memory responses people have, use it to your benefit. If the emotion is fearful you could talk about the smell of death, blood, etc. If the emotion is love you can describe the smell of roses.
*Pick Taste. What does this emotion taste like? Stale coffee, oily, butter popcorn, blood, salt, old socks, etc.
Hollywood makes it look simple sometimes when we see the finished product, but they do layer their work to build mood. We can do the same.
What do you think helps to build the mood in a book or movie?