Setting The Mood. Prompt #49

Prompt #48 was about how to “Grow Your Character.”  We’ll talk about location as character (exterior and interior) in this post and how to set the mood, or the tone of the scene.

Let the reader know right away where the scene is happening, include details such as place, year, season, weather, and perhaps time of day. Not in an information dump, rather, weave in these details.

Furniture tells a lot about a person. Sparse? Elegant? Are there cooking utensils on the kitchen counter?  Neat and tidy? Cluttered?

The city (setting) can be a character in the story. Examples:  Dashiell Hammett and San Francisco, Lisa Scottoline and Philadelphia.

The Christmas tree in The Nutracker becomes a character as it expands.

As you write details about the setting and location, try to use dialogue and action. Think Casablanca and the Maltese Falcon.

Elements of setting the mood:

Where does this scene take place?

City (real or mythical), urban, suburban, small town, hamlet, metropolis

Time of day


Weather can match mood of story


Example of a freewrite, using details to set the mood:

Martha pulled back the Coventry lace curtains, squinting past the newly pruned rose bushes, past the edged lawn and noted the weather. She raised her coat collar high above her ears, and picked up her fur-lined gloves from her bureau. One more look in the mirror to check if her seams were straight. It wouldn’t do to meet Monsieur Blanchard looking like a two-bit whore.

She walked downstairs.

“Good night, Father. Don’t wait up. I’ll be rather late.”

Mr. Edmonton lowered his reading glasses and glanced at his daughter.

“Setting out in this weather, are you?”

“Yes, Father, I have an important client to meet.”

“I don’t like the looks of this. Where are your rubbers? You aren’t dressed appropriately. You’ll catch your death.”

“I’m fine, Father. You worry too much.” She brushed his bald head with her lips and was out the door before he realized a limo had stopped in front of their flat.

Your turn:  Write details about setting and location, using dialogue and action.

For more prompts on location:

A place where you find satisfaction.  Prompt #25

Physical location and action and to describe emotion state  Prompt # 12
Favorite place form childhood. Prompt #11

Location, or place as a character   Prompt #8

Coventry bottom hem

Photo of hem of Coventry lace curtain

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  1. Copper Penny

    Irene called three numbers to find where she could dump her chair; wrong number, wrong department, not available so call back.
    Irene began to feel as though Chair was an unwanted puppy. It had been thru three generations of butts, and now? She was wanting to donate Chair to a good home. To people who would love it as the family had. Some place with teens who could sprawl or a mother or father could tuck a kid or two to the sides and read a really fine book to them.
    But what if Chair ended in a meth house? What if Chair was bounced out of a pick-up truck and left to moulder on the byway?
    Chair or at least a chair had to go.New chair, a hundred year old leather rocker, was moving in and was another multi-generational butt pleaser. True, it was mushroom colored and probably cold in the winter and sticky ion the summer–but it, too, was damn comfortable. Comfortable like Chair, Gold Chair.
    Red chair sensed danger now. Red was newest, a recliner from Lazy Boy. A recliner that Irene fell asleep in every night. Red was also the right height for tall guests and a Swifter could go under it just fine. Not true of Gold or the new Shroom. Which considering the sporadic bouts of swiftering was not too much of an issue to Irene.
    No sentimentality attached to Red. Only peer pressure from the coffee clatch’s head decorator and room critic left Red in contention to stay. Shroom and Red would go together better than Gold would with either of them. But Irene was stubborn. Like her dress, casual and comfortable trumped storeroom beauty or Better Homes and Gardens spreads.
    Besides Irene could probably move Red in her own car and not have to wait for the phone-frustrating van. This was a plus with Shroom arriving in less than thirty-six hours.
    If only, Irene had sighed for the ninety-ninth time, if only she had a bigger house and could accommodate the whole damn
    damn gang of chairs.

    1. Kathy Myers

      I’m glancing around my living room now with a new appreciation of the personalities residing in my furniture. The couch I’m reclining on has an indent of my ass that could be used to cast the bronze statue they will make of me when I win my nobel prize in literature. Personality plus. This piece illustrates how detailed description and personification of inanimate objects can enrich a scene.

      1. mcullen Post author

        Great humor here. .. “cast the bronze statue” and winning the Nobel prize. . . wait. . . maybe not humor! Maybe prediction?

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