On Better Writing: Book Editor Tips for Achieving Mood Through Setting

“A certain darkness is needed to see the stars.” ~ Osha

Believe me, the value of book editor tips escalates when we get into the complexities of literary devices. Developmental book editors pay close attention to mood because some authors struggle with building mood. Others miss the significance. So let’s be clear — mood is the great manipulator. Mood is the feeling a writer orchestrates within a reader’s mind while soaking up the story line.

book editors

Authors achieve mood through their choice of words, syntax and level of detail.

Silly. Sinister.  Sneaky. Sordid. Sensational. Supernatural.
Witty. Whimsical. Wistful. Wishful. Wanton. Wondrous.
Amazed. Amused. Appalled. Ambivalent. Annihilated. Apoplectic.

The list goes on and on. Authors, book editors and screen writers can source “mood” words from almost every letter of the alphabet. And that’s not a bad idea as you flesh out your story arc. The mission is to evoke emotion through atmosphere and ambiance. This cues readers about your intentions—or the character’s intentions—and “hooks” your audience through a clever combination:

  • Setting
  • Tone
  • Diction

Creating Mood through Setting

Setting is all about time and place—the season, weather, and locale. It’s the backdrop of the narrative and supports unfolding events. But a particular setting can also create a particular mood. For instance, a graveyard and a carnival are two totally different settings and create totally different moods…but then again, you could place the carnival smack dab in the middle of a cemetery. Now that scenario creates both competing and contrasting moods.

You, as author, are the “direbook editorsctor” of the events on each page. Yes, you are the puppet master. Your use of sensory language creates mood-rich settings that steer readers in whatever direction you wish.

Remember C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? The “wardrobe” transported readers from a contemporary setting into a supernatural wonderland. With just a little imagination, your characters could find themselves in any mood-inducing situation, or even over-the-top developments as shown below.

Scenario 1: Your hapless protagonist stumbles and grasps the lip of abandoned wishing well. It glimmers strangely as the effervescent glow casts a green shadow over his knuckles. He feels a white-hot burning sensation and struggles mightily to disengage.

Scenario 2: Your reclusive heroine wants nothing more than to write in the solitude of a New England winter. The roof moans, sagging ominously under the weight of the merciless blizzard. As she glances up, a plunging wood beam and a few tin shingles obliterate the fireplace, ushering in an avalanche of snow. Now she must “Macgyver” herself and her frantic cat out of the dilapidated farmhouse, despite the feline’s nasty contusion and her painfully swollen wrist.

Scenario 3: Your doomed antagonist cowers amidst the ruins of his own factory. White-garbed specters surround him, bent on extracting revenge. They perished in a series of tragic machinery accidents and haven’t forgotten that he was too miserly to upgrade the vintage equipment.

Next Up

Developmental book editors are trained to assist authors in capturing and conveying mood, as well as making full use of other literary devices (for a full list visit literarydevices.net). I would love to serve as your “extra set of eyes” and help ensure your manuscript is the best it can be.

Contact me at melaniesaxton@icloud.com, and let’s get started!