"A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings but a cat does not." -Ernest Hemingway

Monday, February 28, 2011

What Do Settings Have To Do With The Emotion of Your Story?

[The distant rumbling of the thunderous night wakes her from her silent dream of sunning under swaying coconut palms while a pair of faceless hands gently covered her body in warm tanning oil.  She opens her eyes slowly to the pitch blackness when a crackling bolt of lightning suddenly lights up the room and the pair of dark soulless eyes sinking its sharp cold fangs into her neck, covering her body in warm soothing blood.]

Choosing the right words is an important technique for any author to learn because it is the building block to creating well crafted settings.  Each setting has its own mood and making them descriptive is key to each one individually joining together to convey the emotion of your story.  Maybe you've created unforgettable characters and even have added interesting and meaningful dialogue, but without detailed descriptive settings your characters will just be floating around inside an empty vacuum.

Let’s explore by taking the above setting and take out the descriptive details: 

     [The rainy night awakens her and when she opens her eyes a bolt of lightning lights up the dark room and a pair of eyes sinking its fangs into her neck.]

Sure we know it’s a rainy night and she gets bitten by a vampire, but how boring!  What’s the one thing lacking?  That’s right, mood.  We can’t tell it’s a stormy night filled with lightning, we don’t know she was having a sensual dream or when she’s bitten by the dark creature of the night it too is sensual. 

So the next time you find yourself struggling with a scene not conveying the mood you want try looking for ways in which you can add more detail to the description of the setting.  Just remember it is important to carefully choose words which will color the setting to match the mood. 

Next week, we’re going to explore how the mood of each setting also plays a role in conveying the theme of your story. 

Until then,

Keep on thriving, keep on striving and keep on writing!

T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author      

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's The Mood of Your Narrator?

The past couple weeks, we've been exploring the viewpoint and voice of your narrator. For my post on viewpoint click here and for voice click here.  The one remaining important decision to make when deciding how your narrator is going to best tell their story is what tense they are going to tell it in.

Tense can affect the mood in which the narrator tells the story.  For instance, present tense is really good for showing nervous energy or impending doom, especially when being told through first person viewpoint for the narrator doesn’t know what happens next.  The narrator’s perception becomes the reader’s reality.  Using past tense, however, works well with third party viewpoints or third party omniscient for it allows the narrator to be more descriptive in their telling of the story.  In other words, everything looks different in retrospect.
Sometimes both tenses can be used to bring a sense of closeness within a scene.  The scene may start out reflecting on something that happened in the past or in a dream and the narrator is telling it in past tense then, without the reader even noticing, the scene is suddenly being told in present tense.  How did the writer achieve this transition?  They’ve learned to artfully change tense through a hidden dialogue exchange within the scene.  Try it sometime it can help open up a whole new direction in your writing. 

No matter which tense you choose for the narrator to best tell your story, making that decision is vital in affecting the mood of every sentence.  So if you ever find the mood of your story, or scene, just somehow doesn’t feel right, try changing the tense, you might be amazed by the difference!  

How about you, have you ever tried changing the tense of your narrator?  Do you find in doing so that it often times leads to changing viewpoint as well?

Next week we’ll explore setting and how it too plays a huge part in the emotion of your story.

Until then,

Keep on thriving, keep on striving and keep on writing!

T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author      

Sunday, February 6, 2011

How Does The Narrator of Your Story Speak?

In other words, what does the voice of your narrator sound like?  

Last week we spoke about whose viewpoint should tell your Protagonist’s story (click here).  After determining the viewpoint which best tells your story the next important thing you can do to help clearly tell it is to discover the voice of your narrator.

What is voice?  The best way to describe voice is it’s the words, intentions and ideas of your narrator. So if your narrator is a modern day eleven year old girl from the south does she sound as if she’s a modern day eleven year old girl from the south or does she sound as if she’s a grown woman from the eighteenth century?  Perhaps your narrator is an elderly man reflecting back upon his childhood, does he talk like an old man throughout or does his voice change as the story follows him through the stages of his life?

How does an author discover voice?  By spending hours or even days getting to know who the narrator is.  Whether it’s the protagonist, a third person, or you the author telling the story knowing and understanding their characteristics, personality and flaws helps to develop voice.  So when you sit down to write it’s as if the narrator themselves is spewing out the words.

The next time you are plotting and planning out a story try telling it from different viewpoints.  Get to know them and you might be amazed how each one has a unique voice!

Next week we’ll discuss tense and how it can affect the mood of your narrator.

Until next time,

Keep on thriving, keep on striving and keep on writing!

T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author