Archive for March, 2013



copyright 2013 by Sherry Garland

Voices of the Dust bowl

Voices of the Dust bowl

We’ve all heard the word “mood” used in many ways:  “she’s moody today,” “he’s in a bad mood,” “I’m in the mood for love.” In terms of novels, mood is hard to define. It is that extra something that makes the reader feel the story, not just read it. You’ve all read books that had a lot of information, but they just didn’t create any emotion in your heart. So what’s an author to do?  Here are my tips for creating mood in your novels:

1. Rain: “It was a dark and stormy night….” Gentle rain creates a mood of sadness, pensiveness, even a sense of coziness if the protagonist is safe and warm inside. A rain storm, on the other hand, creates tension and sometimes fear. A storm often occurs at a peak of the protagonist’s struggle. Here’s an example of a rainy scene from my novel THE LAST RAINMAKER:

“It began with the rain, an early spring deluge of undulating gray sheets moving across unplowed fields not yet green with wheat or corn, across dirt roads deep with carriage-wheel ruts, and toward a cemetery on a hill. “

2. Wind:  Like rain, soft wind means calm, strong wind means tension. A moaning wind gets you in the mood for mystery or ghosts, especially if the wind is moaning through an old Victorian house or tombstones, as in this example from my current Work-in-Progress:

“They knew they should listen to the warning of the wind moaning through the belfry of the nearby church and whistling around the tombstones in its sorrowful cemetery.”   

Yes, something bad is going to happen, and the reader knows it because of the mood being set.

3. Time of day:  The sun creates a joyous mood — good things often happen in the sunshine; evil things happen in the darkness. It’s human nature to be afraid of the dark, so if you have a scene full of fear, try setting it at night or in the shadows.

4. Music: Nothing gets your mood going swifter than music. Copyright laws do not allow you to include stanzas from songs without permission, but you can use titles. Also, you can use public domain songs or even make up your own lyrics. Music can say so much — joy, anger, love, and on and on. For example, in one scene, I wanted the protagonist to feel sad and repentant, so she heard distant strains from a church choir singing the old tune, “Softly and Tenderly, Jesus Is Calling.” In a YA novel I am working on, with a Vietnam vet who has PTSD and is now hooked on drugs, the character gyrates and stumbles to the Rolling Stones belting out “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.”

5. Animal sounds: Depending where your story takes place, there will be animals around. A coyote or wolf howling creates loneliness, a mourning dove creates melancholy, a singing lark or mockingbird creates happiness. Dogs barking, cats meowing, birds chirping — don’t forget your furry or feathered friends.

6.  Five senses:  As I’ve mention in previous blogs, using the five senses is imperative for making the reader feel like he is in the middle of the story. Of the five, smell is the one that evokes the strongest memories. To this day if I smell Hai Karate cologne or Tigress Musk perfume, I am thrown back to my college days. To create mood, don’t just describe the rain, use the senses: feel cold drops hitting the face, taste the rain on the lips, smell the damp dust, see the black clouds accumulating, hear the loud thunder.

Okay, that’s it for this blog.  All this talk has put me in the mood for ice cream.


Read Full Post »