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Work Room - Week 5

The results are up: http://therealljidol.livejournal.com/967722.html
There is another member of our 100 Week Club: http://therealljidol.livejournal.com/967458.html

and a new topic: http://therealljidol.livejournal.com/968050.html

I also brought you a special treat - one of the most iconic members of the 100 Club, and definitely a bit of a legend in Idol circles.

She is one of those people who I have seen grow as a writer over the years. Which has been awesome, but even better, I've been able to see her life transform. That's one of my favorite things, ever. (and she is one of them as well)

Welcome to your Mentor for this week - the one and only gratefuladdict!


Hello, Idolers!! Thanks for having me this week. Let's talk about setting the mood!

The ability to create and sustain mood and tone is integral to great writing. This encompasses everything from the chill that permeates a horror story to the impish decadence of pillow talk, from the impassioned persuasive essay to the upbeat, friendly and professional tone of corporate email. It's a skill that draws your reader in as you build your narrative.

So, how do we do that?

For me, the biggest tool is rhythm. When I want to up the stress level in a piece - for suspense, hysteria, etc. - I create disjointed sentences that don't flow well. I'll do several short, staccato sentences in a row, and occasionally throw in a long, run-on sentence, so your reading pace starts to raise your blood pressure a bit.

If you want to see how a master does that, read The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe. If your heart isn't racing by the end, you have nerves of steel!

You can apply that same technique to create other moods. If you're going for surreal disjointed dream state (my personal guilty pleasure), you can write long, stream-of-conscious sentences that observe more than they judge or act. If you're making an argument about human rights or the culinary merit of sweet potato fries, start slow and measured, then build up to a crescendo of impassioned personal statements.

The key is to read it aloud, or have a friend read it to you. Make sure their voice changes where it should. Make sure they speed up or slow down in sync with the piece. If they don't, you might want to look at your sentence flow again. Shift things until your writing evokes that mood from them.

Another big piece is word choice.

If you are writing that a woman is good-looking, for example, there are a lot of words you could choose from. Is she beautiful, pretty, gorgeous, good-looking, handsome?

Take a step back and think about connotation, rather than just the denotation (literal meaning) of the word. For example, when a woman is described as "handsome," most of us tend to imagine someone whose features or dress are not particularly delicate or feminine. I imagine this woman to be someone who sees wardrobe as serviceable, but is neat and well groomed.

Conversely, if you describe her as "beautiful," I get something really different.* I imagine someone with striking feminine features - probably long hair, big eyes, and a curvy shape. I also infer something about the speaker's perspective - calling someone beautiful could suggest that person has "stars in the eyes" and is awed by her beauty.

And it's not only the connotation to consider here. Say your choices aloud, alone and embedded in a sentence, and see how the words feel in your mouth. They become part of that rhythm as well.

One last thought to consider! Don't underestimate the role that empathy plays in creating strong moods in your writing. If you're writing a personal essay, you might be doing this without realizing it! If you're writing fiction, it takes a bit more work. But if you can immerse yourself emotionally in the moment you are describing, a lot of that mood will come through naturally.

That's enough out of me! How do YOU create mood and tone in your pieces? Are there certain voices or rhythms that feel natural or more intimidating?

After ten seasons of Idol, have you mastered the ominous "hippie about to be kicked" tone?

*Disclaimer: Bear in mind that different cultures and subcultures can have very different connotations for words! It helps to have others read your draft and let you know if any of your word choices feel off to them.


( 59 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 11th, 2017 03:39 am (UTC)
I learned a big lesson about what I intend versus what a reader takes away from a piece when I wrote something for a writing group I'm part of, and everyone read the main character as being a man. (She was unnamed, but in my head, definitely a woman.) That's what made me sit up and go, "wait, how am I coming across?" I wish I could have read this advice earlier, if only because it would have saved me from that embarrassment.

This week's prompt...I'm having some difficulty getting away from the song. Death Cab For Cutie was everywhere when I was in high school/my first year of college, and the entire album is fraught with feelings about my first serious relationship. It's going to be fun getting away from that one.
Jan. 11th, 2017 04:42 am (UTC)
I wouldn't be embarrassed about that!! That's an indictment of cultural norms about gender roles, and nothing more. You can consciously move outside of those expectations and invite your readers to come with you. Your friends in the group just helped you to see that it had to be a bit more overt to translate.

I have written a lot of fiction for Idol, but there are topics that strike a chord with my personal life and refuse to leave me alone until I write them. We all have those personal stories we aren't sure we want to share, because we think they're cheesy, embarrassing, boring, or tired. But if the topic ignites a spark in you, screw everybody else. Take a stab at it. Even if you write it all down and you hate it, you've given it space to breathe and you can move on. But often I think you'll find the topics that haunt you will haunt your reader as well, once you infuse them with that emotion and let us feel it.
(no subject) - jake67jake - Jan. 11th, 2017 04:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - j0ydivided - Jan. 11th, 2017 04:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dmousey - Jan. 11th, 2017 04:58 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 11th, 2017 03:46 am (UTC)
dear gratefuladdict:

I am shiverrrrrring through the most monstrous deja vu because something I have been working on this week, which I had not thought of in terms of idol -- except I guess idol is always in the back of my mind when we are playing it here -- something else I have been chewing on suddenly jumped up and bit me. Aside from being in tune with the topic, love and fear, it also carries a heavy load of mood, and uses several of the techniques you mention and describe as useful for building and sustaining mood. Would you like to take a look at my draft for beta consideration? Thanks.

Edited at 2017-01-11 03:47 am (UTC)
Jan. 11th, 2017 04:28 am (UTC)
RE: tone
I'd be happy to!
Re: tone - tijuanagringo - Jan. 11th, 2017 05:28 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: tone - gratefuladdict - Jan. 11th, 2017 05:35 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: tone OKAY HERE IT IS - tijuanagringo - Jan. 11th, 2017 05:39 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: tone OKAY HERE IT IS - gratefuladdict - Jan. 11th, 2017 10:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: tone OKAY HERE IT IS - tijuanagringo - Jan. 11th, 2017 10:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 11th, 2017 04:35 am (UTC)
What does that meeeaaann? 'Hippie about to be kicked' tone? What's wrong with hippies? All they want to do is spready harmony and good will? And for this they get kicked? Do they reeeaaallly deserve this abuse? Why, it would be like kicking an overly friendly dog! I Just. Won't. Do. It. Your Honarables, I object!!

ps... This topic need some ponderance- I must go ponder! Peace~~~

Edited at 2017-01-11 04:36 am (UTC)
Jan. 11th, 2017 04:42 am (UTC)
Ask our Evil Overlord!!! ;)
(no subject) - dmousey - Jan. 11th, 2017 04:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - clauderainsrm - Jan. 11th, 2017 07:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fannishliss - Jan. 12th, 2017 07:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 11th, 2017 04:46 am (UTC)
Since, um, it appears that I am the only unrepentant Death Cab fan in the room tonight:

I Will Follow You Into the Dark, off Plans.

In Catholic school as vicious as Roman rule
I got my knuckles bruised by a lady in black
And I held my tongue as she told me,
"Son, fear is the heart of love."
So I never went back

is the relevant verse. I hope that helps anyone who wasn't familiar with the song and was stuck!
Jan. 11th, 2017 11:52 am (UTC)
Oh, wow, that's bringing back memories of parochial school...
(no subject) - ryl - Jan. 11th, 2017 01:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - amberdawnpullin - Jan. 11th, 2017 07:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - j0ydivided - Jan. 11th, 2017 08:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ellison - Jan. 12th, 2017 05:56 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fannishliss - Jan. 12th, 2017 07:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 11th, 2017 05:07 am (UTC)
I have been complimented on my ability to "set the mood" in certain pieces that I've written... but as to how I achieve that, I can only say this: I envision the scene in my head, and I do my best to "paint a picture" of that scene, using just words. To my mind, certain words automatically inspire a certain emotional response in the reader, so I work under the assumption that whatever words spring to my mind when I envision a particular scene will convey the "mood" I am experiencing as I imagine that scene. I won't claim that my word choices are *ALWAYS* correct... but quite frequently, "magic" happens.

PS: At first, I had no clue how to approach this week's prompt, until I read the rest of the lyrics for the song "I Will Follow You into the Dark", and then I realized that I literally *LIVED* the lyric in question. Now I just need to find the time to sit down and write about the experience...
Jan. 11th, 2017 05:36 am (UTC)
Magic happens because you, sir, are a natural!!

I can't wait to hear more about how you lived that song.
(no subject) - rswndrlst - Jan. 11th, 2017 04:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 11th, 2017 01:17 pm (UTC)
I'm getting "I hurt you because I love you". That, in itself, is VERY loaded and very uncomfortable to ponder.
Jan. 11th, 2017 04:17 pm (UTC)
OHHHH... that is a very deep and very loaded area too. Wow...

I'm gonna wander over and listen to the music and lyrics.
(no subject) - gratefuladdict - Jan. 11th, 2017 08:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dmousey - Jan. 11th, 2017 10:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gratefuladdict - Jan. 12th, 2017 02:45 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - theun4givables - Jan. 12th, 2017 02:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dmousey - Jan. 12th, 2017 02:58 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jake67jake - Jan. 12th, 2017 06:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ryl - Jan. 12th, 2017 02:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - my_name_is_jenn - Jan. 12th, 2017 07:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 11th, 2017 05:45 pm (UTC)
A big welcome to our new mentor, gratefuladdict!

So after giving this week's prompt a bit of a brain bounce and coming up blank I turned to the internet. Most of the answers I found focused the fear of losing love, or a loved one. There were also references to teachings of the Roman Catholic church. This I can't relate to, although Proverbs 9:10 says "the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom." There is even a video out there that has the words "fear is the heart of love" in a song's lyrics.

I think I will focus on the first, the fear of losing love, or a loved one. Can't really come up with much else. This gives me something to shoot for in the next day or so.
Jan. 11th, 2017 08:18 pm (UTC)
Lots of great references here! I grew up in a Protestant church, and I always had questions about the use of the word "fear" when it came to God. Our teachers explained it as "awe and respect" rather than fear as I understood it. I'm sure there's a better translation out there nowadays, but I always thought it a bit intimidating that the word "fear" came up at all. It felt like a threat, one that I often sensed beneath the surface whenever I questioned or disregarded religious instruction.

That's my own baggage though! I think it's a really interesting angle.

What's that expression about love? "Love is handing someone else a gun pointed straight at your heart, and trusting them not to pull the trigger." Sometimes there's a lot of fear in that vulnerability. Sometimes you choose to open up and love and still feel the fear for a time.
Jan. 11th, 2017 06:23 pm (UTC)
Man, this one has me stumped.

The prompt has taken me to some darker places, and I'm not sure that's where I want to go. Especially since I feel that my past several entries have been on the darker side.

I don't know if that's where I want to go, if that makes any sense.
Jan. 11th, 2017 08:26 pm (UTC)
Personally, I think it's early to be worried about showing versatility in the game. If you're writing mostly dark entries and they're GOOD entries - ones that draw your readers in and make them feel something - then I say, go on with your bad self!

If it's just a dark place and you aren't sure you want to go there emotionally, turn it around! There are a lot of ways you could approach a dark idea and turn it on its end. You could do that with tone - classic Twilight Zone stuff. Where things are weird and crazy but everyone just sees it as normal. Or you could delve into the darkness and resolve it, overcome it, rather than live there.
(no subject) - dmousey - Jan. 11th, 2017 10:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 11th, 2017 06:43 pm (UTC)
I'm a little stumped by the topic this week. I've got a few shimmers of ideas in my head, but they're not fully formed ideas. And even if they were complete ideas, I'd have no idea (heh) how to write the ideas.

Jan. 11th, 2017 08:33 pm (UTC)
Whenever I played Idol, it took me most of my allotted writing days to get my idea to coalesce.

Let's be real - many weeks, I was sitting down to my computer at 9pm the day before the entry was due with no freaking clue what I was going to write, convinced I was a shit writer and overall less than satisfactory human being who was never going to squeak something out in time.

Luckily, I was usually frantically g-chatting with a few good friends who reminded me that's just my process and that I should just write SOMETHING.

Some people I know seem to get ideas quickly, develop them quickly, and then then spend most of their time drafting and revising. For me, I tend to want the idea to leap from my head fully formed like Athena. Or mostly formed. Mostly formed would work.

Keep ruminating! There are good ideas in there. :)
(no subject) - my_name_is_jenn - Jan. 11th, 2017 09:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 11th, 2017 11:44 pm (UTC)
So, I googled the line and read the lyrics last night.

I think this thing can go in a lot of directions.

The song seems to be about following someone into death, which is dark enough.

As far as I can tell, the line itself is not at all rooted in the Bible or the Catholic doctrine, so it's kind of a "religious person twisting dogma to justify inflicting pain" place.

And about leaving abusive situations

When I first read the line, "Fear is the heart of love," my immediate thought was, "Bullshit." I've always thought of fear and love as opposites, and I'll probably end up writing something about that. I don't know.

Fear may be the heart of obsession, but it sure as hell isn't the heart of love.

Jan. 12th, 2017 02:43 am (UTC)
I couldn't agree more. My internal barometer for good vs. evil comes down to "acting out of fear" vs. "acting out of love."
(no subject) - ellison - Jan. 12th, 2017 06:01 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - unmowngrass - Jan. 12th, 2017 12:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 12th, 2017 06:17 pm (UTC)
I'm struggling with this topic too. Actually spent a good part of yesterday listening to the band's other songs and also had this line resonate with me "Your heart is an empty room"... which I don't like the visual it gives me either. And I really reject that idea personally.

Fear *isn't* the heart of love, but I know some people who operate like it is.

Fear of losing someone that you love isn't the same as losing the love YOU have for that person or that they will lose the love THEY have for you.

And of course, MY personal emotions are more than a little bit raw with the death of my dad on Christmas.

I guess I'm just going to have to start writing *something* and see where it goes or what it turns into.
Jan. 12th, 2017 07:40 pm (UTC)
I feel like arguing with the topic is still a take on the topic, provided you make a good argument in its own right and don't just say NO to the topic.
(no subject) - gratefuladdict - Jan. 12th, 2017 08:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 13th, 2017 04:42 pm (UTC)
How are unrelated-but-use-same-characters stories perceived in Idol? I have an inkling of an idea, and want to revisit Janie and "I" for the story -- because it would fit with 12-year-old girl mentality and attitudes.

Or, should I create new characters -- or should I not pursue it in that vein because I've already done the 12yo girl POV?
Jan. 13th, 2017 06:45 pm (UTC)
Using a consistent "universe" for stories in Idol, or publishing an ongoing serial for Idol, has had mixed results in the past. The common consensus seems to be that as long as every story stands alone, people don't mind it; but many readers will not remember what happened in your storyline last week, or remember that you have shared these characters with them in the past. That's especially true when the field is still so broad.

On the plus side, I think it's too early to worry about what you've already tackled. If the 12 y/o POV is working for you with this topic, I think you should go for it!
(no subject) - jake67jake - Jan. 13th, 2017 07:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kathrynrose - Jan. 13th, 2017 06:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 13th, 2017 06:04 pm (UTC)
Hi, gratefuladdict!

These are really good things to think about. Having a wide range of adjectives is one of the best ways to change the texture, the flavor of your pieces. Also, using words that are age appropriate to your characters is a great way of giving the audience more information.

For me, one of the most rewarding elements of creating a moment is through text/subtext. This can be more challenging, especially early in a season of LJ Idol, because the tendency is to keep the pieces under a thousand words (and preferably closer to five-hundred with so many writers to read)! But to tell a story and have it resonate frequently means putting what characters are saying (the subtext) and have them say something that *hints* at the meaning of what that is, without actually stating it!

One of the most enduring (and endearing) examples of this comes from the 1942 film classic "Casablanca," where Humphrey Bogart as Rick tells Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa "Here's looking at you, kid." What he's REALLY saying is "I love you." But if he said that, it would lose the flavor, it would be too "on the nose." We might not even believe it! That's the power of text/subtext. It gives you a lot more freedom and it helps define the characters in a way that makes them truly unique.
Jan. 13th, 2017 06:42 pm (UTC)
I completely agree on both fronts!! Both adjectives AND descriptive verbs - they paint a clearer picture AND they impact the mood and rhythm of the piece.

And subtext is huge. I love how it draws the reader in and engages them more in what's really going on. And the fact that one thing is said (or not said) and something else is intended creates a mood all its own!
Jan. 14th, 2017 08:49 pm (UTC)

Have Plans on shuffle while writing today Soul Meets Body is one of my all-time favorite songs btw

I'm listening to Death Cab and writing an angst-y livejournal post

the emo younger me is like whoa what year is it rn?!?!?

Cause in my head there’s a greyhound station, Where I send my thoughts to far off destinations, So they may have a chance of finding a place where they’re far more suited than here

( 59 comments — Leave a comment )


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