On (April 8, 2021) I posted a photo of a lightning storm and titled the post Atmospheric Emotion. In your writing you will need to convey emotions to your atmosphere/setting. This then creates a connection to your readers because they start to feel these emotions too. Typically, darkness or a dark room conveys foreboding or unease. A warm setting with trees, green grass, a cozy cabin with a small pond depicts serenity. But what if you want that calm serene scene to depict foreboding without the darkness? What can you insert into that scene to create that foreboding? Perhaps it’s too calm. Maybe the friend of yours who lives there is no where to be found. Her belongings and car are there, but she is not. Her cellphone is sitting on the patio table, so calling her won’t do any good. Or, perhaps he/she was there a minute ago and now he/she is not. He/she vanished in the midst of this calm setting.
When it comes to emotions and projecting them onto a setting, you must go beyond narration. Just telling your reader the back yard was creepy or gave your main character a creepy feeling or a sense of foreboding, is not enough. They must FEEL that sense. These emotional projections from a story to its reader(s) is part of what makes for a great book/story.
I hadn’t been in my friend, Elliot’s, basement before. Elliot had always been so upbeat all the time; full of jokes. But the black walls and purple lights were the opposite of my friend’s personality, so it was creepy.
I hadn’t been in my friend, Elliot’s, basement before. I never understood why until now. In the past Elliot’s upbeat demeanor magnetized others. People drew to him. So, my breath caught in my chest, when I reached the bottom of his basement steps and flicked on the light. A deep purple glow radiated throughout the room in front of me. The color of the walls appeared to be black, but the purple light made it impossible to tell. A kind of mist seeped through a few cracks in the walls. It hit my nostrils and a dank stench reached my stomach, giving me the dry heaves. Peering to the left, a cot stood in the far corner. Was it my imagination, or was there an indentation of a body on the one and a half inch mattress? I inched that way to take a closer look. I came within five feet, and the indentation moved. No body was visible…..
I took my tea, opened the sliding glass door and stepped onto the back deck. The grass had been freshly mowed the day before and the flower gardens weeded. A well kept yard makes for a relaxing mood. I spotted the lounge chair to my right, walked over to it, and sat down.
I lifted my tea to my nose and inhaled the ginger fragrance, causing me to smile at the sweet scent. The sun peeked out from behind a cloud and shown through the sliding glass door. I opened it and stepped out onto the back deck. A warm breeze whispered by and pushed my shoulder length hair back as I took in the freshly cut lawn and sweet scented flowers. Standing there taking in all of the beauty reminded of a mental massage of sorts. I stepped over to the cushioned lounge chair and sunk in, closing my eyes and relishing the clapping of the leaves on the trees as the breeze moved them.
In Example 1 the bad sample tells us that the character feels creepy, but do you the reader feel it? In don’t. We get that the main character feels creepy, but WE don’t feel as creeped out as he/she does. We don’t even believe he/she feels creeped out because the seriousness of the situation doesn’t come across.
In the good sample of Example 1 we feel the main character’s emotions of fear and apprehension, and we feel his disbelief of a friend who is normally upbeat but has a basement that’s dark and dreary. We are as creeped out as he/she is.
In Example 2 the bad sample is rather mundane and stale. We understand the environment is relaxed in nature but it doesn’t come across in the writing. The environment doesn’t evoke emotion at all.
However, the good sample of Example 2 conveys the imagery needed to evoke the relaxed and warm atmosphere to the reader. We can actually identify with this because most of us have experienced this type of relaxation. But, it wasn’t told to us as in the bad sample. It was SHOWN to us. Did you feel relaxed? I did.
Overall, emotions play a huge role in any story, especially when it comes to atmosphere/setting. They draw your readers into the text and keep them there. That’s where you want them, and you want them there to stay.