Skip to main content

Writing Tips: Using Comparisons to Affect Mood

#WRITINGTIPS: Carefully choose your comparisons to support the mood of your passage.

In this quote from "The Captive Series Bundle (Books 1-5)"  by Erica Stevens and Leslie Mitchell - the authors have sacrificed the atmosphere of a battle scene by using comparisons the reader usually associates with positive situations.

Running across the top of the battlement, Ashby moved swiftly through the soldiers trying to stop him. Ever whistling Ashby continued to toss them aside like discarded peanut shells. Realization settled over him as Jack finally understood what caused Ashby to become so ruthless. Melinda.

How to Write it Better

First, consider the mood you are trying to create. In this featured passage from "The Captive Series":
  • The situation is "war"
  • The setting is a "battlement"
  • The character is "ruthless"
  • The action is "tossing soldiers aside"
Based on the above information about this scene, it would be appropriate to go for a "chilling" mood. 

Before we can do that, however, there are a few issues to deal with:
  1. The character Ashby is known to be good natured and is always whistling. However, to imagine he could be whistling while slicing his way through a multitude of soldiers requires too much suspension of disbelief. It would be more impactful to have Ashby stop doing what he usually does, showing a change or depth of character that reveals to Jack Ashby's "ruthless" side.
  2. The word "toss" is frivolous. We "toss" salad. We "toss" balls. To get the true impact of this passage, we need to toss the verb "toss". 
  3. Why stop there? Let's change "running" to something more descriptive that shows the unstoppable forward motion of Ashby. What word would you use?
  4. Let's also change up "moved". These are common verbs that, with a little tweaking, can empower your writing.
  5. And what kind of realization could settle over Jack? Well, if you know the story, Jack's sister Melinda was torn from Ashby, so though Jack had no say in the matter, he didn't stop their father either. Do we describe the realization, and if we do, will it help the scene by giving Ashby a stronger reason to be ruthless? This may change the mood, possibly moving it from chilling to something else. We (as authors) have to decide if it is worth it.
  6. Lastly, I read this great article about emphasis. In it the author stated that an em dash was the strongest form of emphasis, even over a comma and possibly a period. I'm going to use one before "Melinda".

The Rewrite

Original

Running across the top of the battlement, Ashby moved swiftly through the soldiers trying to stop him. Ever whistling Ashby continued to toss them aside like discarded peanut shells. Realization settled over him as Jack finally understood what caused Ashby to become so ruthless. Melinda.

Rewritten

Charging across the battlement, Ashby cut swiftly through the soldiers trying to stop him. No longer whistling, he struck down his enemies with a chilling single-mindedness. Cold realization spread over Jack as he finally understood what caused Ashby to become so ruthless--Melinda.
As you can see, by just making a few word choice changes, you can keep a scene on point in terms of the mood you want to create in your reader. In a perfect world, we (writers) would find the time to examine each of our scenes and modify them to be the best they could be. For some authors of quickly produced series, that means fewer books in more time. Each writer has to decide for themselves.




The Book Examined

"The Captive Series Bundle (Books 1-5)" by Erica Stevens, Leslie Mitchell

Book 1, Captured.
Captured, taken from her beloved family and woods, Aria’s biggest fear is not the imminent death facing her, but that she will be chosen as a blood slave for a member of the ruling vampire race. Aria’s world is turned upside down when a vampire named Braith steps forward to claim her. He delays her execution, but Aria knows it’s only a matter of time before he drains her, and destroys her. Aria is determined to hate the prince, but his strange kindness and surprising gentleness astonish her. Torn between her loyalties to the rebellion, and her growing love for her greatest enemy, Aria struggles to decide between everything she has ever known and a love she never dreamed of finding.


Writing Definitions

The tone of a piece of literature is the speaker's or narrator's attitude towards the subject, rather than what the reader feels, as in mood. The mood is the general feeling or atmosphere that a piece of writing creates within the reader.




Comparison Definition. A comparison is a rhetorical or literary device in which a writer compares or contrasts two people, places, things, or ideas. ... There are numerous devices in literature that compare two different things to show the similarity between them, such as simile, metaphor, and analogy.




Example: Some words that can describe the mood of a poem might be: romantic, realistic, optimistic, pessimistic, gloomy, mournful, sorrowful, etc. Some words that can describe the tone of a poem might be: serious, humorous, amused, angry, playful, cheerful, sad, gloomy, etc.




The Disclaimer

No one can ever know what a writer is going for when they write, and for me to say my rewrite is what the writer should have used is presumptuous. So, I won't say that. However, as a reader of this scene, I felt a darker mood would have served it better. 

As well, not every writer scans each scene to ensure it is perfect, including myself, and I'm sure there are scenes and passages within my own novels that could use tweaking.

Overall, the scene above is used to demonstrate how word changes can alter the mood of a passage, thereby affecting a reader's emotions.



Thanks for reading! 

Cheryl R Cowtan
Award-Winning Educator, Author, and Writing Coach

What’s Brewing? http://www.cherylcowtan.com
Let’s Connect: @NspiredMe2Write



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How to Use MS OneNote to Organize Writing Research and Novel Outlines for Writers

Let’s Get Organized 
Writers take a gazillion notes.I don’t have to tell you this, because you know all about it. You also know how difficult it is to organize notes, search through paper notes, and sometimes even find all the notes you've written. 

In this day and age, going digital is the best way to keep track of your notes. If organized properly, digital notes are sortable, searchable, editable, accessible from anywhere, and light as a feather to carry around.

In this blog, I'm going to show you how to be note-efficient.
____________________________________________________

The following is an excerpt from "Technology #WritingTips for Writers". First 100 subscribers athttp://www.cherylcowtan.comget a free copy at book launch. _____________________________________________________
The first step in getting note-efficient is finding the right software. For writers, finding a software that will meet all of our needs is like trying to pick a toothpick from a sea urchin... …

How to Edit Overused Words in Your Novel Manuscript

Wordle is probably the easiest tool for finding overused words in your novel, because you just paste your entire manuscript into Wordle and wait for the results.
Wordle creates an image of the most often used words in the text, increasing the font size of a word based on how many times it was used. The Pride and Prejudice Wordle is interesting as a comment on societal manners at the time it was written by Jane Austen (Mr, Miss, Mrs). The Wordle above is from my current manuscript The Fergus She. If you notice, the word "Angus" is in the largest font. The visual  is telling me I used "Angus" more than any other word, which is good because he's the hot highlander my protagonist, Rachel, is lusting for. Where is Rachel's name? you might ask. The Fergus She is written in first person POV, from the point of view of Rachel, so you won't see her name in large font.
In the Wordle graphic, the next font size (after Angus) are words like "back", "…

When Others Steal Your Work - The Margaret Keane story "Big Eyes"

"If you want me out of your life, you'll have to paint me 100 more waifs--100 more Keanes".

How does it happen? How can someone take over your art, your heart's-work, and pass it off as their own and you just let it happen? If you've ever wondered how people get themselves stuck in situations that don't serve them, and often harm them, you need to watch the movie "Big Eyes" on Netflix.


The film is based on the true story of Margaret Keane, artist of the "big eyes" waif portraits. For 10 years, her husband claimed he was the artist who created her work, and though he couldn't paint, he was a genius salesman and was able to make quite a bit of money and gain a lot of fame through his sales skills. Walter never painted a thing. His wife produced all the paintings for him to sell, often working herself to sleep in a small studio in their house. Even Margaret's daughter was lied to.


The film succeeds, for me, in the way it shows the v…