Monday, 10 September 2012

Airy Scary..


Atmosphere

Atmosphere, in my opinion, is one of the most difficult things to grasp in writing thriller fiction. In my own preferred genre it is perhaps a little more clear-cut as all speculative-type fiction should be suffused with a sense of the unnatural or unknown. A kind of fearful anticipation of what could happen or what might happen - that is beyond our normal understanding.
But I think atmosphere is important in so many other ways. It creates certain expectations in a reader that must then be lived up to.
Atmosphere is created by various things. Settings help to a large extent and so do characters themselves but also the language used can also create atmosphere. But the atmosphere must fit with the story and so it is something I always give a great deal of thought to before I even begin writing.
I suppose the easiest atmosphere to imagine is a scary one such as the type used in ghost stories. The clichéd haunted house that creaks and moans or the fog- shrouded moor that hides dark secrets. The hooting of owls and wild life at night - or the abnormal absence of the same!

Other types of genre fiction have their own clichés, of course. I do believe atmosphere is closely related to the emotion you are trying to elicit in your reader. If you wish your reader to feel anger than an unpleasant atmosphere (or setting) will help. If you are looking for a tender emotion then a romantic setting may help. However it is not just about setting. A harsh factory floor can be made atmospheric and romantic with the right words and actions.
The trick (and the challenge) is to create your own sense of atmosphere to embed in your story, without it being clichéd. More difficult than it seems, I feel. For atmosphere is ethereal and like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder ( apologies for the cliché).
Do you find it easy to develop a sense of atmosphere that fits with the story/genre?




17 comments:

  1. My betas have told me my setting/atmosphere descriptions pull them right in.

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  2. I quite enjoy the challenge of a setting that contrasts with the story, so the reader is hopefully drawn in by the unexpected clash. And I especially like a bit of mounting drama in an ordinary house setting, that feeling of something major happening within four walls where no one else can see...

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  3. Very thought-provoking post. I hadn't considered atmosphere while writing. Thanks for this.
    karen

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  4. Hmm... I don't find it that difficult, but then again, atmosphere in chick lit isn't quite as palpable as it is in thrillers, I supposed. I focus more on sense of place and setting, which is usually London - and which I love! So I supposed it comes naturally, in a way.

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  5. Very good post. I don't have anything to add, but I'm bookmarking it for future reference. :)

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  6. Interesting post, Pat. Yeah, I have to agree that atmosphere is important in setting the mood. I don't know how great I am at it, but no one has complained so far. Atmosphere isn't one of my writing struggles, though.

    Thanks for discussing atmosphere. I hadn't really thought of it until now. :)

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  7. This is very interesting. I know I need to break out of the mold of cliches

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  8. Another great post - thank you Pat. x

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  9. I think a scene can be more menacing the more normal the setting. I do like a spooky fog though!

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  11. Great post. I find atmosphere to be a tough area for me in my writing. I'm too sparse in my descriptions.

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  12. One trick I've done to help inspire myself is listening to a music that I think matches the mood / atmosphere. It helps with my pacing and word flow. Sorta like greasing the wheels. (I am a big Pandora abuser! You can pick one song that sets the mood and then Pandora will pick out others that sort of match so I end up hearing music that I might never have heard of.) Some people can't write with that kind of distraction but I write with young kids in the house and I find music on headphones less distracting that two little boys fighting over who stole whose Hot Wheel car.

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  13. I think atmosphere and setting can be quite challenging. It's so easy to go overboard with too many descriptions, and avoiding cliches is something I have to make an effort to avoid. You're right, though, that atmosphere and setting can enhance a scene, bring life to it, make it real to our readers. I love that photo! Very cool!

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  14. I think music helps with world building too. Great post.

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  15. I really struggle with bringing things OUTSIDE of my main characters. I have lots of INTERNAL atmosphere going on, lol, but always have to do a revision pass that's focused solely on setting and, you got it, atmosphere. Great post!

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