Creating mood in your creative writing | Teacher Tips
The easiest way to describe mood is, what do you want the audience to FEEL when they read your piece? Having a piece of creative writing with a strong mood is important because, if your audience doesn't feel something while reading, how are you going to engage them?
Some common moods within texts include:
When starting the process of creative writing, along with explicitly teaching 'showing not telling' I also make a point of addressing mood. As a class we define mood and brainstorm the different moods that texts create, many of which are above. I then ask students to select one of the moods and challenge themselves to write a vignette that helps to establish this.
There are three key ingredients that help to establish your chosen mood:
1. Using connotations. Connotations are the feelings that a word conjures. For example, if I am writing a piece that aims to generate feelings of violence or anger I will specifically integrate more words that have those feelings associated with them e.g. hate, bitter, rage, snatch, hurt. My word choice for creating a joyous and uplifting mood will be highly different and my descriptions will likely have more positive connotations.
2. Imagery. Imagery and 'showing not telling' is essential to any engaging story. I like to use the five senses to draw audiences in and create an image in their mind. This imagery may describe the characters thoughts and feelings which will help to generate that mood in the audience. Imagery may unintentionally or intentionally integrate other language techniques such as personification, alliteration or simile to help create that 'image' in the readers head.
3. Sentence structure. If I am creating a mood that is more suspenseful or angry, it is likely that I am going to use significant punctuation and truncated sentences. This creates a staccato rhythm and makes the reader feel more on edge. However, if I want to generate feelings of peace or sadness, I may use more medium and longer sentences that contain more description. In saying this, I do believe that all good creative writing uses varied sentence structures.
Here is a short example of how I created mood in a piece of creative writing.
The seconds tick by slower than usual, the promise of freedom lingering at the end of this torturous ordeal. I glance absentmindedly at my blank computer screen, attempting to muster the will to touch fingers to keyboard. The other members of the class stare hopelessly out the window or ponder their own mundane existence while every now and then managing a few extra words in their books. I distract myself, noticing the dull blue of the classroom and its hopeless desks. Ms Morton drones on from the front, making us read again! I lock eyes with Jordan across the room and her pleading expression tells me we are both prisoners in the same trap. When will this boredom end?
The mood I intended my piece to generate was one of boredom. As you can see I used a variety of negative connotations to highlight that I felt class was a boring place to be, for example "torturous", "hopelessly", "dull" and "drones". My sentences are often long and winding to reinforce how long and stretched out the period felt. I also used imagery to help you picture the classroom and the feelings associated with it, for example the personification of the "hopeless desks" and the metaphor of "prisoners in the same trap". I finish off with a rhetorical question to reinforce the mood.
I hope this helped you to get a greater understanding of mood and how it is an easy and effective technique to boost the quality of your writing.