Setting the mood

There are moments in a story when a scene or scenario requires a little extra TLC. The moments when something important happens or the ‘mood’ needs to be established. As humans, we revolve around our emotions and associate certain things with strong emotions. These usually evolve into memory association or recall.

‘The taste of the fried battered fish brought back memories of Anne’s father. He backhanded her at the dinner table for chewing with her mouth open. No longer hungry, she ran her tongue over the old scar from where her tooth cut her lip.’

‘The sound of Brian Adams crooning about doing everything for you, made Sasha smile dreamily. The memory of her first kiss at the Jr. High dance consumed her for a moment.’

‘Sasha bounced on her feet as they entered the bustling stadium. The savory scent of hotdogs, popcorn and spilled beer reminiscent of her happiest day with her grandpa before he passed away.’

‘Goosebumps crawled up Anne’s arm as the silk scarf pulled through her hand. The last time she felt a scarf like this was when she was caught shoplifting as a young teen.’

Adding moments like these can help define my characters and their history. Where they happy? Miserable? Bad or rebellious? How does it affect or play on who they are today in my story. It’s like creating foreshadow without having to actually foreshadow. I would do this to offer some insight into why a character might be behaving or reacting a certain way. I might also do this to foreshadow a moment coming up that is likely a turning point for the character. The options are endless, basically a brief emotionally charged glimpse into their past via association.

This recall is fun to use. Writing a scene that is designed to become such a memory takes planning or at least the thought to use it again later to benefit the story. It could inadvertently happen too, but for me I try to wiggle things into what I’ve already written to jazz it up a bit.

Setting the mood is easy to do. You need a brief description of the setting, something of the five senses to tie the emotional response to and the actual act that brings it all together. Good or bad, scary or romantic, this is my chance to make a moment in time. Earlier I mentioned four of the senses, taste, sound, smell and touch. Without them there is no way to make this moment work.

Sasha sat on the dock dangling her toes into the cold water, the sound of loons calling in the distance danced with the sound of the lake water lapping the rocky shore.
“Long day huh?” Cal sat next to her dropping his own feet into the water.
She looked away from the subdued light glittering water to his face. Somehow even more handsome in the twilight. After nearly being shot and then attacked, her nerves were on edge. Yet Cal calmly saved her, took her away from it all and remained steady and calm.
“You can say that again.”
“Nah, I don’t like repeating myself.” His teasing tone eased her agitation, he turned to face her and she held her breath.
He was beautiful to look at in his rugged angles and strong features. The twilight erased all shadows except for his day’s beard growth. She looked at his soft lips as they moved forward and touched hers gently. His hand slipped behind her neck entangling his fingers in her hair. With her eyes closed all she could do was feel his warmth, taste cinnamon and hear nothing but wilderness around her.

 Later on when Sasha is once again in danger or at her ropes end I might bring something into the scene reminiscent of this one to remind her that someone cares for her, or is worth living/fighting for. Maybe the call of the loons or the subdued light of twilight will cause an emotional recollection and pull her from her misery or fear. Whichever it may be.

My advice about emotional recollection.
Whether it’s a memory moment to give the reader a glimpse into their past or a scene set to become one later tying emotion with senses and an important moment/action will strengthen your story and your readers attachment to it.

-Sheryl

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