Friday, February 22, 2013

Mood Hacks

Mood acts like barometer. It marks the daily or hourly highs and lows of human emotion. Highs mean fair skies and smooth sailing. Lows bring in the squalls, so to speak. And there in the middle, the emotion systems that can't decide what they want to be. Frankly, both in weather and in emotions, that's the danger point - when you can't see which way the clouds are going to break.

I won't repeat or try to add anything to the excellent mood setting advice we've had all week. I've had too much fun reading the excerpts James (ow) and Allison (loved the diseased whore - but then, I would) posted. I agree with Jeffe's post - the color of the curtains DOES matter, and I love the exercises KAK and Linda provided for analyzing mood. Nothing new or interesting to add there.

You know you convey mood in writing based on word choice and descriptions. What happens though when you're in one mood and you need to write the complete opposite? I don't know about you, but when I'm feeling all sunshiny, I don't have access to all the depressing portions of the vocabulary. It's like a defense mechanism against dragging down my happy. A couple of options as I see it:

A good friend once noted that she had to do her day job without fail, regardless of her mood. Why, then, should mood be allowed to dictate whether or not she wrote every day? It's a good question, but what if you could harness your mood as a writer and make it work for the mood of your WIP? We all have angry days, sad days, unsettled days, guilt-ridden days, fun days, joyful days, peaceful...emotion infinitum days. If your mood seems to be shutting you away from your WIP, close the computer, grab a pen and some paper and start asking questions.
  1. What am I feeling? (No need to go digging for cause and effect - frankly, you don't care - you simply want to name the emotions, as many as you can.)
  2. Where do I feel this stuff? (Body location and specifically what you feel - burning in your gut, giant glob of ice in your chest, whatever it is for you.)
  3. Where in my WIP does my hero or heroine feel EXACTLY what I'm feeling right now?
  4. Does he/she need to feel this? Why?
  5. How does it play into (or heighten) the conflict?
Write that scene. Fast. Sloppy. Full of whatever emotion is flooding you. Use the physical sensations you identified. You specifically do NOT want this scene to be neat or tidy. If words run sideways up or down the page, that's great. This is about getting the emotion into your characters while you are in throes of said emotion. This works for everything - joy, pain, rage, sorrow, restlessness - and as soon as you start scribbling your mood into your characters and into your scene, you'll find it's hold on you diminishing. You'll settle and be able to go on working if you want. Then you can neaten up your scene and decide whether the curtains the arguing couple ripped from the window were blue, yellow or green with purple polka dots.

If that's not an option, I can offer an actor hack to alter your mood. You act as if. Seriously. Let's say you're down. You hate everyone and everything, yet you need to write a sweet and joyful wedding scene. Get up. Stretch, concentrate on opening your chest - shoulders back, arch the upper spine slightly. Put your index finger at the indent at the pass of your throat with the rest of your fingers against your chest. Imagine a line tied to your chest right below your pinky. Someone's gently pulling that line up and out, lifting your ribcage and tugging it forward a bit. That's opening your ribcage, which also opens your lungs and brings more oxygen into your blood. Breathe. Now the hard part. Smile. Grin if you can, and jump up and down as if you're a five year old splashing in mud puddles. Mood altered but it may not last, so write your scene. This will work with any mood. The point is to adopt the posture of the mood you're trying to put on the page.

Mood in a scene can be a reflection both of who your protagonist is and of the conflict of the story. Your mood as a writer matters to the extent that certain emotional states lock you out of noticing the sensory details of other emotional states. Not such a good thing if you have to write a sex scene right after having had a major quarrel with your partner -- unless you *meant* to write revenge sex...

1 comment:

  1. If only the "needed mood" matched what we feel at the time! Love the concept of hacking into it. :D