Friday, April 14, 2006

In the Mood

Everyone has their favorite romance genre or category. Some are dedicated Desire or Intrigue readers. Some like the fully developed subplots of a single title. Myself, I am a hardcore fan of romantic suspense and am growing a greater appreciation of paranormal and fantasy by the day. Recently on the Midnight Hour Blog, one of the authors asked the question of why everyone read paranormals. I think I responded with some vaguely coherent rambling about the unlimited realm of possibilities – the attraction of the unknown and unexpected. Hot vampires work too.

But the more I think about it, the more I think it has a lot to do with the mood or the feel of the book. The darkness, the magic, the mystery all woven into it. The world building is so important to these stories. I’ve come to this conclusion as I struggle to incorporate these elements into my own paranormal MS. My first book was a YA fantasy set in another world. It was so much easier to bring the fantastical mood when the world was whatever I made it to be. The magic could be woven into every aspect of their lives - six inch vegetarian faeries just live differently than we do. A grasshopper - almost insignificant to us - can be a mode of transportation or a wild beast to them. Its obvious. Not so much with my paranormal.

How do I take an average woman living in contemporary Seattle and wrap her up in the dark and mysterious world of the vampire without –

A. losing her qualities of being just an average person in a bad situation
B. making the vampire world so fantastical that it becomes incompatible with the daily life of mortals
C. getting too bogged down in the cheesy, hocus-pocus side of old vampire B movies.

That’s where I am. I was watching Underworld the other day – a movie that features both vampires and werewolves running around London. It had such a dark quality – something intangible, but ever present and important. I know the feel that I’m looking for, I am just having a hard time capturing it on my pages. I’ve even been listening to the soundtrack of the movie as I write, trying to get myself geared up for it. I'm up for suggestions.

What kind of mood do you like in the stories you read? Light-hearted and romantic, emotionally uplifting, funny, suspenseful…? Is that different from what you write (if you do)? What do you do to capture the right "mood" for your stories?



Kathy said...

I'm so glad you finally watched Underworld! It's one of my favorites. And Underworld 2 is just as good!

Putting on music while you write helps put your mind in the mood, creating a world of the senses, and gives the mind license to break free of the moment. I listen to Native American flute music while I write. It really takes me back a hundred years or so to a time when the plains were open to buffalo and lawlessness.

But there is another kind of music threatening to break down the doors that keep it at bay until the flutes have hit their final chords. I'm having a diffcult time trying to hold the inspiration that it's giving me back until I can finish what I've started.

Isn't that a writer's curse?

Playground Monitor said...

I'm a "Desire" girl so I love sensual romance and a happily ever after with a couple trips to the bedroom thrown in for good measure. *g* That's what I've been trying to write too, with mediocre success.

I tend to go for the unexpected in my writing (i.e. latex allergy). I had a writing exercise once where you were supposed to use the phrases "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" in the piece. Of course, the obvious was to write about a bride. I wrote about a woman with Alzheimer's in a nursing home. Her son was visiting. I wrote

“Is that something new?” he asked, pointing to the pink bed jacket that she wore.

Bess fingered the delicate edging along the front opening. “Oh heavens no, dear. This is something borrowed from Mavis.”


“Lanetta found something old in my nightgown drawer when she helped me with my bath.” Bess traced her finger across the face in the photograph.


There was something blue in Jud’s voice as he bade her farewell. Remembrance of better times? Regret for things not accomplished? Acceptance of the inevitable?

I think sometimes I take the road less traveled.

Linda Winstead Jones said...

I used to listen to music while I wrote, but I quit. I will sometimes listen while I'm plotting, or thinking over a problem, but I want to be sure that the mood I'm in comes from the words on the computer screen, not the music. I'm such a sucker for music. Watch a movie with sweeping music, and it sucks me right in. Turn off the sound and read the words on closed captioned . . . not the same.

It's much harder to evoke a mood with words, and I think there are times when it does come down to word choice. Sometimes it's in the details. I saw someone on the tonight show, years ago, talking about comedy delivery. Be specific, he said. This was a long time ago, so I'm paraphrasing. If you're telling a story and you say "someone hit me on the head with a can," it's not funny, but if you say, "she hit me over the head with a diet coke can," the specifics change the tone of the story.

Simple word choice can make a difference with any tone you're trying to capture.

And this is much too rambling for someone who's on her first cup of coffee. :-)


Instigator said...

I love to read comedy - but can't write it to save my soul (at least not an entire book).

What I do write is sensual with some dark occastionally thrown in for run. Or rather, I try. Some days I succeed. and some days I spend the entire time tinkering with a single paragraph and when I'm done I'm still not satisfied.

The vision in my head of what I want doesn't always come out perfectly onto the page. But I can usually get it close. With lots of work :-)
Those rare moments when I hit it perfectly make the struggle worth the effort.


Problem Child said...

I like funny, sexy stuff. I'm not one for dark, angsty books. Usually--there's always the rogue book that I fall in love with event though it's not my normal cup of tea.

Because I'm an oral/aural learner, I can't have music in the background. In fact I can't have noise of any kind. I can't focus otherwise. It's one of those things you have to respect about your process, or else you're going to spend a lot of time beating your head against a wall.


Angel said...

One of the things I love about paranormal books is the dark undercurrent. I'm also a lover of angst, so I've thought a lot about this.
My first thought ran to location-old, dank houses, dark and stormy nights, etc. But then you have the same atmosphere, even without the stereotypical location.
I've about decided that, like LJ, the key is the details. I'm not good about getting this down in my first draft. I have to go back and layer it in.
For instance, the sudden thudding of the heroines heart, despite the perfectly normal looking day. A slightly disheveled looking hero who's normally perfectly groomed.
The picture on the wall that holds significance in the hero or heroines background. The innuendos in someone's speech-hidden messages, unspoken desires, inside jokes.
For location, I tend to close my eyes and picture the scene, picking up on the details that make it different or significant. A little goes a long way in description, I think, so those small details can stand out to the readers and stay in their mind as they navigate the scene.
I don't know if I've explained this very well. :) My brain's a little numb after staying up until past midnight creating bouttinieres for my mom's wedding.


Loribelle Hunt said...

I like a wide variety of books, but I don't read much category. My favorite is the dark angsty stuff and that's what I write. I'd love to be able to write comedy, but I haven't managed to get the tone right.

I write with music and what kind depends on the story or characters. Now it's alternative/punk, but I've written things that felt more Motown or honky tonk or whatever. It helps me set the mood.

Carla Swafford said...

I listen to everything from opera to the Queen of the Damn soundtrack. Music blocks out the TV (no privacy for me) plus sets the mood. I like self-sarcastic humor (a la Laurell Hamilton's Anita Blake series).

The last few years, I've noticed I read more dark type of paranormal and romantic suspense than anything else.