In the space of an hour this morning, I read a few pages of each of the three mysteries I am currently reading and they’ve got me thinking about the role of mood within the stories. They all have the usually genre elements in common (someone’s been killed, someone is trying to figure out who killed them, it is not readily apparent who the killer is) but I find myself reacting to each one very differently. The mood of the writing is a large part of that. Mood, as opposed to tone, is how the text makes the reader feel.
For instance, The September Society by Charles Finch has dead people and suspense but the lighthearted prose and pithy little chapters keep me emotionally distant from any horror. When I pick up this book, I feel like I am right there next to the protagonist, Lenox, solving the crime over a glass of brandy next to the fire. When I pick up Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson, there is no cozy feeling at all. Robertson is doing a good job of giving me that gothic, something-is-definitely-wonky-up-at-the-big-house feeling. Jo Nesbo, on the other hand, had me white knuckling the steering wheel during morning car pool listening to The Leopard. Gruesome violence and homicidal maniacs aside, it’s the creepy mood and sense of foreboding that keep me listening.
Anyway, my reading has got me thinking about my writing. What mood am I evoking in my readers? In Overlook, I wanted the reader to be having fun with Kitty and Stacia. it’s a light read even though some pretty heavy things happen to the characters. In Lara, one of my current WIP, I want the reader to feel suspense, even though it is not a mystery. In The House, still in the sketchy first draft stage, I want to set a pensive mood. It’s a story about stepping back from life to reassess.
How much do you think about mood when you are writing? Do you do so in your first draft or do you tackle mood in the revision phase?