Mood is a Literary Element. Let’s Get Moody.

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In literature, mood is a literary element that evokes feelings or emotional reactions in readers through words and descriptions.

Tone and mood are often confused with one another.   “Tone” is the writer’s attitude that is expressed in the writing whereas “mood” is the feeling the reader gets from the writing. The writer can develop mood through word choice, dialogue, sensory details, description, and plot complications.

Madrid Writers Club Mood

Escape by Tuncay used under Creative Commons Licence 2.0

Below is a brief list of some moods and a brief definition of each:

Alarming – worrying or disturbing

Buoyant – cheerful and optimistic

Comical – producing laughter; amusing; funny:

Confining – restrictive or limiting

Cool – showing no friendliness towards a person or enthusiasm for an idea or project.

Brooding – engaged in or showing deep thought about something that makes one sad, angry, or worried.

Fantastical – fanciful or capricious

Hopeful – feeling or inspiring optimism about a future event

Light – cheerful, easy going

Melancholy – pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause.

Dark – sullen, dour, glum. morose

Ominous – giving the worrying impression that something bad is going to happen; threateningly inauspicious

Oppressive – distressing or grievous

Relaxed – being free of or relieved from tension or anxiety

Spooky – eerie or scary

Suspenseful – uncertain awaiting a decision or outcome

Warm – showing feelings, passions, emotions, sympathies

Sexy – excitingly appealing, glamorous

So How Do We Evoke Mood?

Character reaction is crucial to grabbing the reader attention, to pulling them into the scene, to provoking reader emotions.

Characters who remain unmoved can result in readers being unmoved. If what happens doesn’t touch a character, why would we expect it to touch the reader.

If the characters aren’t engaged, readers won’t be either. If characters are seen not to care, how can we expect readers to care? Character response is a primary driver of reader response.

Let’s Get Moody

Choose a Mood from the list above or write down a mood you wish to create. Don’t tell anyone what mood you have chosen. Keeping the mood in mind do the activities 1 – 4 individually.

note: I have found it helpful to imagine or remember a personal experience, and let the memories draw that mood out before I begin writing with the intention of creating a mood.

Activity 1:

Write a brief definition of a setting in less than 80 words.
Examples: A café, a book store, a beach, a space station on Mars…..

Activity 2:
Write a brief character sketch of two distinct characters. Limit each description to a maximum of 80 words.

Activity 3:
Describe in one or two sentences what is the conflict/change that will occur in your scene.

Activity 4:
On a separate page, write a draft of a complete scene, max 500 words. Attempt to transmit the mood you choose at the beginning. When you are finished the other members of the group will read your piece and try to guess which mood you choose from the list.

Group Activity 1:
As a group peer edit each other’s scenes. The peer reviewer should be able to guess the mood selected. If the mood is not obvious the writer needs to work on developing it. Continue developing the piece.

Share what was successful. Share also what was contradictory or opposed to the mood. Discuss the different uses of dialogue, descriptions, word choices. If you like take notes of what works and what doesn’t.


About David Nevin

David Nevin is the Founder and President of the Madrid Writers' Club and Editor of the Madrid Writers' Blog. He started it all in January 2012 to accelerate his learning of the writing craft and to meet like-minded people. He has written two novels, pending publication. A science fiction and new technology addict, he is learning his way from short stories to his third novel. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Physics from the University of Limerick Ireland and has lived in Spain since 2001. He plans to travel to the moon as soon as possible.

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