I love what my fellow Word Whores have said about story mood and author mood this week. Thinking about the subject, my moody mind went to Robert Fritz, the author of Path of Least Resistance, who talks about how a person has to be indifferent to mood when they’re making something, like a table. Or a life. Or a book.
So how do you sit down to write a happy scene when you’re sad, a sex scene when you’re not into it, a dark fighty scene when the birds are singing and the cats are prancing so cutely? According to Fritz, it’s all about structural tension. I think it’s kind of a cool and interesting concept that I sometimes try to keep in mind when things are rough in the WIP and I’m not feeling it.
Structural tension is where you keep in mind two things—what the true state of your manuscript is and where you want to go with it, and if you keep that tension up between the two poles, that’s what will propel you there. The trick is to live in that discomfort, and none of it is dependent on mood.
I really like that. It’s a very workmanlike approach to things, but also about vision. There are two ways it can go wrong – by seeing your manuscript as better or closer to your vision than it really is, or letting up on where you want to go.
I think mood can be a source of wisdom, too. I started this new book about 10 or so days ago, the second in a new series, and I kept spinning my tires on it, not in the mood to work even though I felt the idea was objectively fabulous. But I kept trying to fix it. Then today I took an honest look and realized it wasn’t viable for a whole book, even though I felt the scenes themselves were working.
A stuck mood showed me something was wrong. Now everything is kind of reduced to rubble, and I am in the mood to write it! Because something better can come of it now.