Mood and Culture

So, we're back at mood again, this time taking a look at how our bare-bones society reflects the mood of our novel.

That's right-- the mood. Remember last week's exercise, where you wrote down some key moods that you like to read or write about, and the climate that fits them best?

Well, now we're going to do a similar exercise with your history, politics, and language. Get out your timeline, your economic/political groups, and your list of syllables.

Do they "fit together" with your mood? When you read about the events in your timeline, do you get the same sense of seriousness or comedy, the same high/epic feeling or low pulp thrill? Or is there some dissonance? If you're aiming for a high epic, perhaps naming your planet "Bob" isn't the way to go, hmmm?

Read down your timeline and make a small "X" next to anything that doesn't fit. You're not deleting yet-- just marking it for revision later. It might not fit your mood, or it might just need some tweaking to go in.

Also mark your political groups and economics. If you want science fiction parody, you're going to have a hard time using "wheat by-products" as an economic force. "Broken laws of physics" as an export, on the other hand, may work really well indeed.

Do the same with your syllables for language, or your place and character names, if you got that far yesterday. In some cases, you may have a couple of intermingling cultures that create the overall mood of your novel. Perhaps you have the high/epic elves and their scary counterparts, the giants; you can use different language sounds for each group, and let that dissonance play a role in your novel as well.

Note: Having trouble really identifying the mood again? Finding that your mood and your language don't match at all?

Take a deep breath and think "When I read this story, I want to feel....." what? Amused? Thrilled? Important? Angry? Frightened? Dark? Confident? Angsty?

That's your mood. Now think about that emotion and write some concrete words that make you feel that way. By "concrete" I mean nouns and adjectives-- words for things you can touch and see. Chances are, you'll end up with words that generally sound similar. For example, if I want my novel to be "gritty" I'll choose words like "grit" and "scratch" and "claw" and "mark," words which have predominant "t" and "k" and "ch" sounds in them-- to my ear, these are harder sounds than more rounded or liquid sounds. "K"s and "T"s and "Ch" sounds are all going to be in my names, then.

Similarly, if I want "gritty" I'll trim out of my timeline that War of the Ferrets I'd initially considered putting in. That one belongs to the comedy novel, not my gritty survival-of-the-fittest story. Now is the time to trim out the things that don't quite fit your mood, add things that fit it better, and generally tweak together your novel notes into something that forms a strong basis for your story.

Exercise (recap):

As stated above. Settle on the overall mood for your story if you haven't already. Look through your timeline, political groups, and language notes and mark for revision anything that doesn't fit your mood. If you have time, revise those things. Otherwise, leave them for later.