Monday, April 12, 2010

Telegraphing Happy

Okay writers, I'm sure this is something  you've pondered in some way before, but let's talk about setting mood and telegraphing feelings through your writing and get the juices flowing. 

To write really well, a writer must polish his or her craft of telegraphing what's going on and not simply state John was happy, or John was angry or John was sad. 

So, we want to get that message across, but how to do it.  Well, as always, it's the little concete things that make up a story, give it texture, make it come alive.  There are times when the writer wants to convey the mood of the scene, not just the feelings of a character.

So, let's think about it.  What adds 'happy' to a scene?  What brings a smile to your lips or makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?  A field of flowers blowing in the breeze; the sun shining; the sound of laughter in the background; a dog or multiple dogs wagging tails; bird singing?  Some are cliche, but you get the point.  If writing a scene wherein you want to not only  let the world know your characters are in  good frame of mind, but to telegraph that 'feel good' feeling into your story you need to write with an eye toward that goal and immerse yourself in that feeling.

The flip side of happy is sad or depressed or dark.  Again, what comes to your mind in connection with that kind of feeling?  A storm; darkness; a heavy, deep silence; a setting in a small, tight space; an omen such as ravens circling; a combination of elemements like ravens circling against a storm darkening sky? Again, some are cliche (actually many have become cliche), but if you as the writer apply the idea to your own story, new ideas will appear.

And there are all kinds of signals a writer can give in many situations.  The scene is transitioning from one siutation or mood to another.  What to do to signal that aside from the primary action of your characters?  Cliched again, but symbolic, the gathering of clouds before an oncoming storm.  A main character's encounter with a threat, perhaps a minor one, but one that's disruptive - maybe a face-off with a snarling dog in the park.  Perhpas the car won't start.  Maybe a feeling of deja vu when spotting another person in a crowd.  How about an appraising look from a shifty looking characrer on a bus or subway?  Play with ideas, come up with something uniquely your own. 

The story gets better and better when the writer comes up with something new, or a new twist to something old. Read some of your favorite authors.  Look for places where the mood, whatever it is, is a tangible, living part of the story, then re-read for how the writer accomplished that feeling, that goal.  You  might try watching some movies and see what elements come together to make up the mood projected from the screen (aside from the music in the background - in fact, turn off the sound, just absorb the pictures). 

Each writer has to find his or her own voice.  Sometimes that means taking action (go to the library, read, cruise the net for research) and for others it means daydreaming. 

Think seriously about this aspect of your story-telling, the many moods you as a writer can create, work on it, and what you create will become engaging and gripping for your reader.  And that's what it's all about, right?


  1. Excellent advice, can't wait to get home tonight and try it out.

  2. Thanks Patty, hope it really helps your writing sing.


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