The Mood of a Novel

We all know what it means when someone says that they are in a good or bad mood. Every one of us has a range of moods, that cover the spectrum from deliriously happy to gloomy or sad, and that is a sure sign of our humanity. Even the weather can have an impact. Think of how you feel when it is bright and sunny, or grey and pouring with rain. Most of us know a person who could best be described as moody: difficult to deal with because of their unpredictable swings of temper. Others are prone to the dreaded “black dog” of depression, or to manically excitable behaviour.

A mood is a feeling or state of mind, and the mood of a novel is the atmosphere it creates and the way it makes the reader feel. You may have noticed the genuine emotions that a film, play or book aroused in you: sadness or happiness, disgust and dismay, anxiety or even terror. In your favourite novels, how did the writer create the mood that left such an impression on you?

Choosing the mood

You are the author with full creative control over your novel. Before settling down to write the first draft, decide on the mood you want to convey. Will it make your readers feel sad or cheerful, scared or angry, despairing or hopeful?

It is such an integral part of every story that it needs to be considered at an early stage of the planning process. Then it needs to be layered into every aspect of it.

The mood of your novel is called a literary device. That means you are using a method to achieve a particular goal. Your aim is to arouse the feelings that you want people to experience. Would you describe those emotions as positive and uplifting or negative?

Despite having subject matter that is sad and gloomy, you may decide that you want the mood to be bright and optimistic. Some of the greatest literature deals with the most tragic of topics but leaves us with a feeling of joy and hope: the classic triumph over adversity stories.

Here are some “mood words” that might help with your choice:















Do any of those meet your needs?

Layer the mood into your story

Having decided on the mood, think about the novel you propose to write. What elements can you add to amplify that mood? Wherever possible, you should layer the atmosphere into your story through description and word use. Think of ways to achieve that with your character and plotline. Consider the settings, and whether they will enhance it. Having said that, you don’t want your entire story to convey only a single emotion. The mood is the pervading tone, but there will still be changes of atmosphere. That includes lighthearted moments in a very serious story that bring us some much-needed comic relief.

Decide on the mood of your novel, prepare your story outline and take on the challenge of creating the atmosphere that you want to convey.

What do you think?

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