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Be a Better Writer--PLAYING AROUND WITH MOOD

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Be a Better Writer--PLAYING AROUND WITH MOOD

Postby glorybee » Sat Apr 18, 2015 7:53 am

For this week’s lesson, I’m giving you a little writing exercise. First, here’s a literary term and its definition:

The mood of a piece refers to the emotions that it elicits it its readers. This can be established through the writer’s word choices, the setting that the writer establishes, and the emotional states of the characters. Typically, the same sorts of words that can describe the moods of people can also be used to describe the mood of a piece of writing: cheerful, peaceful, thoughtful…gloomy, tense, hopeless (to name just a few). But it's not enough to just look at how the MC is feeling to determine the mood of the writing; a similar and related literary term is ‘atmosphere.’

As with previous writing exercises, you’ll get a character and a situation. No choices there…the choice will be the mood in which you choose to write your little exercise. First, however, I’ll give you an example. Your actual exercise is further down in the lesson, and uses different prompts. These are just for the example.

Character: Middle-aged parent

Situation: A room is empty

Moods (pick TWO): cheerful, peaceful, thoughtful, gloomy, tense, hopeless

TASK: Write two mini-stories of approximately 100 words. One should have a positive mood (cheerful, peaceful, or thoughtful) and one should have a negative mood (gloomy, tense, or hopeless)

***

PEACEFUL MOOD: Jan closed the door to Megan’s bedroom and her hand brushed a glossy poster, the tape peeling away. Megan’s high school crush, a lop-banged, barely pubescent singer. Jan smiled; Megan had long outgrown the silly pop star, but every time Jan suggested the poster should come down, Megan had stalled her. I’ll do it, Mom, she’d said. Just…later, ‘k? Now Jan slipped a finger under the yellowed, crackling tape, ready to finally pitch the ridiculous poster. She stopped when she imagined Megan returning for her first weekend home from college, the inevitable look of mild reproof. Take it down when you’re ready, Megs.

TENSE MOOD: Jan glanced once more at the mantel clock: 1:18 a.m. Megan should have called twenty minutes ago; it was only an hour and a half drive back to campus. Even if she’d stopped for gas…she knows she’s supposed to call as soon as she gets back. Where is she? But Megan was still in the room, everywhere Jan looked—the senior picture on the wall, the vase she’d made in art class, the sweatshirt she’d forgot to grab on her way out. She’ll be cold…The wind and rain beat a syncopated crescendo on the window. Jan could still smell Megan’s scent: lavender, cinnamon, a hint of salt.

***

Got it?

Here are your prompts now:

Character: office employee

Situation: lunch

Moods: thankful, excited, refreshed, cynical, lonely, overwhelmed (pick TWO—preferably one positive, one negative)

TASK: Write two mini-stories of approximately 100 words. One should have a positive mood (thankful, excited, or refreshed) and one should have a negative mood (cynical, lonely, or overwhelmed)


After you’ve written your stories, consider these questions:

1. What sorts of words did you pick to portray the two different moods?
2. How did the settings of the two stories differ?
3. What other tools did you use to change the moods of the two stories?
4. Which was easier for you to write? Why do you think that is?

***

You have a few choices about how to respond to this lesson:

1. Post one or both of your mini-stories here, along with your answers to one or more of the above questions (and any additional thoughts you might have). OR…
2. Post one or both of your mini-stories here, for comments from me (I won’t have time for entire critiques, but I can point out a few things that jump out at me). OR…
3. Do the exercise, keep your stories private, but share your experience with the exercise, including answers to one or more of the above questions (and any additional thoughts you might have) OR…
4. Comment or ask about the two mini-stories that I wrote. Criticism is absolutely fine; I can take it. OR…
5. Just ask me some questions about mood.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--PLAYING AROUND WITH MOOD

Postby dmbowman » Sat Apr 18, 2015 2:01 pm

I combined mine. This just might be loosely based on real experiences. :)

Her stomach growled, again. She needed to eat, but she didn’t have any food. It wasn’t a matter of being unable to afford it, simply a lack of time for grocery shopping. She’d been working so many hours lately that she hardly had time to clean the rotting food out of her refrigerator, let alone actually go buy fresh food. Five pieces of chocolate ‘borrowed’ from her co-worker’s drawer would offer enough nutrition to get her through the day, wouldn’t it? Well, it would have to, she decided as she stuffed it in her mouth and dug into her next task.

As she wiped the chocolate off her mouth with a Kleenex, (who had time to go get a real napkin?) her boss walked into her cubicle with a latte, a sandwich, and a salad.

“Do you think you have room left for this after eating all that chocolate?” She asked with a grin.

“I… Yes. Yes. Yes. Thank you!” She bite into the sandwich and stifled a moan. It was no wonder she was willing to work so many hours. With a boss like hers, who wouldn’t do their best?

Food eaten, sitting up straight in her chair, she attacked her duties with renewed vigor.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--PLAYING AROUND WITH MOOD

Postby glorybee » Sat Apr 18, 2015 2:09 pm

dmbowman wrote:I combined mine. This just might be loosely based on real experiences. :)

Her stomach growled, again. She needed to eat, but she didn’t have any food. It wasn’t a matter of being unable to afford it, simply a lack of time for grocery shopping. She’d been working so many hours lately that she hardly had time to clean the rotting food out of her refrigerator, let alone actually go buy fresh food. Five pieces of chocolate ‘borrowed’ from her co-worker’s drawer would offer enough nutrition to get her through the day, wouldn’t it? Well, it would have to, she decided as she stuffed it in her mouth and dug into her next task.

As she wiped the chocolate off her mouth with a Kleenex, (who had time to go get a real napkin?) her boss walked into her cubicle with a latte, a sandwich, and a salad.

“Do you think you have room left for this after eating all that chocolate?” She asked with a grin.

“I… Yes. Yes. Yes. Thank you!” She bite into the sandwich and stifled a moan. It was no wonder she was willing to work so many hours. With a boss like hers, who wouldn’t do their best?

Food eaten, sitting up straight in her chair, she attacked her duties with renewed vigor.


Diane, before I comment on this, can you talk us through the process? At the very least, can you share which two of the given moods you used in this piece? I'm having a hard time seeing the change in moods (it's probably because my brain is currently fried from reading literally thousands of 9th grade essays).
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Re: Be a Better Writer--PLAYING AROUND WITH MOOD

Postby dmbowman » Sat Apr 18, 2015 2:31 pm

glorybee wrote:
Diane, before I comment on this, can you talk us through the process? At the very least, can you share which two of the given moods you used in this piece? I'm having a hard time seeing the change in moods (it's probably because my brain is currently fried from reading literally thousands of 9th grade essays).


It might be hard to see the change in moods because the brain that wrote it is a little fuzzy. :)

I intended the first part to be overwhelmed and the second (starting with the boss bringing food) to be thankful. I'm guessing it needs more descriptions.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--PLAYING AROUND WITH MOOD

Postby glorybee » Sat Apr 18, 2015 4:10 pm

dmbowman wrote:It might be hard to see the change in moods because the brain that wrote it is a little fuzzy. :)

I intended the first part to be overwhelmed and the second (starting with the boss bringing food) to be thankful. I'm guessing it needs more descriptions.


Diane, I see it perfectly now, and the fault is mine. As I said, my brain is full of student essays at the moment. I think I was thrown off by your having made it all one story, when I was expecting two distinct stories. And your mood changes were quite subtle, but I could definitely see them in details like the rotting food in her refrigerator, stuffing the stolen candy in her mouth, and the stifled moan.

Thanks for being the first to step up to the plate--and I appreciate ALL contributors, even (especially) those who re-interpret the instructions to work for them. Well done!
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Re: Be a Better Writer--PLAYING AROUND WITH MOOD

Postby Cinnamon Bear » Sat Apr 18, 2015 7:05 pm

Just as Ashley joined her coworkers for lunch, a young man rushed in, hugged her and presented her with a dozen red roses.

“Well!” Heather laughed. “What’s all that about?”

“Oh, it’s nothing.” Ashley inhaled the flowers’ scent. “That’s just Jason’s way of thanking me for my work on the Olympiad event.”

“Hmph!” Matt frowned. “He certainly made a spectacle of himself.”

Ashley beamed. “Oh—you!” She squeezed Matt’s hand.

***

There’s Ashley, showing off again. Lauren’s mouth tightened in a hard line. Nobody can stand her—I know they can’t. Just the other day I heard one of her students complain that she grades too hard.

Just because she has a degree, she thinks she’s better than me. She’s a professor—and I’m just a lab assistant. And how come Matt’s always fawning on her? I don’t know what he sees in her.

Last week, Lauren had decided to go off her medication. She’d announced her decision at her group therapy session. “I want to express my real feelings,” she said. She’d told everyone in the group about what a twit Ashley was. “Tell her off,” one of the group members advised.

And I will. Tomorrow morning. I’m going to march right into her office and put her in her place.


1) What sorts of words did you pick to portray the two different moods?

Excited: rushed, hugged, well, laughed, oh, inhaled, beamed, squeezed

Lonely: tightened, hard, I don’t know what he sees in her.


2. How did the settings of the two stories differ?

The setting is the same. Lauren is sitting at the table with the others.


3. What other tools did you use to change the moods of the two stories?

The first story is told from the POV of someone who appears to be well liked. It
describes a pleasant and unexpected incident. Heather seems happy for Ashley. Matt
is initially a little jealous of Jason, but Ashley reassures him.

The second story is told from the POV of someone who is envious of Ashley and who
has mental health issues. Her issues prevent her from controlling her impulse to act
on her feelings. The mood of loneliness is enhanced by showing Lauren's thoughts.


4. Which was easier for you to write? Why do you think that is?

The second story was more difficult for me to write. It is difficult for me to understand the behavior of someone like Lauren. This is a true story. Only the names have been changed. If this had not actually happened to me, I would not have believed it. The very next day Lauren made good on her decision; she marched into my office and hurled abuse at me. I didn’t make the connection between her behavior and the roses until a colleague explained to me about Lauren’s decision to stop taking her medication. Until the incident, I had no idea she was on psychotropic medication.

Cinnamon Bear
Last edited by Cinnamon Bear on Sat Apr 18, 2015 8:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--PLAYING AROUND WITH MOOD

Postby glorybee » Sat Apr 18, 2015 8:45 pm

Virginia, thanks! You did a superb job with the moods of each little piece, and I appreciate your input into your writing process.

That's what I love about this forum--the "students" are all teachers, and I learn from every lesson.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--PLAYING AROUND WITH MOOD

Postby Francie » Thu Apr 30, 2015 9:25 pm

Hi Jan,
I'm new to your classes and love your teaching but was wondering if there is a time constraint on getting involved in a lesson. When you describe it as "this week's lesson" how long after that do we have to submit something? Thank you for your kind help.
Francie

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Re: Be a Better Writer--PLAYING AROUND WITH MOOD

Postby glorybee » Thu Apr 30, 2015 9:28 pm

Francie wrote:Hi Jan,
I'm new to your classes and love your teaching but was wondering if there is a time constraint on getting involved in a lesson. When you describe it as "this week's lesson" how long after that do we have to submit something? Thank you for your kind help.
Francie


Hi, Francie!

There's no time limit--I get email notifications whenever there's a new post on any of my lessons, as far back as you want to go.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--PLAYING AROUND WITH MOOD

Postby Francie » Mon May 04, 2015 11:33 pm

Hi Jan,
This is really a lot of fun. It took me longer than I expected, but finally, here's my attempt at playing around with mood. Thanks!


So sweet she seemed at first, but her pasted-on smile no longer hid her true intentions. With ugly ambition she grasped any opportunity to make him appear a fool, trying to undermine his leadership. With ruthless determination she was out to get her boss’ job.

But he wasn’t the only one on her hit list.

I was the new gal, and soon another target of her slander. It was smear time for me when I wasn’t in the room, department lunch gatherings included. I was never invited to those; she made sure of that.

Moods: cynical
Words: pasted-on, ugly ambition, fool, undermine, hit list, slander, smear, never invited.

***
(same setting, later in time)

I breathed a deep sigh of relief knowing God had heard me and answered my prayer. It shouldn’t have surprised me; that’s the way He always worked, coming to my rescue at just the right time. Today, lunch time wasn’t so dreary as I looked ahead to the new job, a place I already felt appreciated. My boss understood when I gave my two week notice. He smiled. “Good luck, I hope the best for you.”

Moods: thankful

Words: relief, answered prayer, rescue, right time, appreciated, smiled, Good luck, hope the best.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--PLAYING AROUND WITH MOOD

Postby glorybee » Tue May 05, 2015 10:43 am

Francie wrote:Hi Jan,
This is really a lot of fun. It took me longer than I expected, but finally, here's my attempt at playing around with mood. Thanks!


So sweet she seemed at first, but her pasted-on smile no longer hid her true intentions. With ugly ambition she grasped any opportunity to make him appear a fool, trying to undermine his leadership. With ruthless determination she was out to get her boss’ job.

But he wasn’t the only one on her hit list.

I was the new gal, and soon another target of her slander. It was smear time for me when I wasn’t in the room, department lunch gatherings included. I was never invited to those; she made sure of that.

Moods: cynical
Words: pasted-on, ugly ambition, fool, undermine, hit list, slander, smear, never invited.

***
(same setting, later in time)

I breathed a deep sigh of relief knowing God had heard me and answered my prayer. It shouldn’t have surprised me; that’s the way He always worked, coming to my rescue at just the right time. Today, lunch time wasn’t so dreary as I looked ahead to the new job, a place I already felt appreciated. My boss understood when I gave my two week notice. He smiled. “Good luck, I hope the best for you.”

Moods: thankful

Words: relief, answered prayer, rescue, right time, appreciated, smiled, Good luck, hope the best.


Well done, Francie! Thanks for popping by and working on this "homework," You did a fine job, and your word choices really helped to establish the moods for both of your pieces.

If I were to critique them, I'd only suggest that you give the antagonist in the first vignette a name. But that's very minor--you really nailed the assignment.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--PLAYING AROUND WITH MOOD

Postby pcimeisr » Fri Aug 25, 2017 10:14 am

James tore the napkin into small pieces. He normally crafted a delicate rose for the waitress. A trick he learned to gain good service. Not today. He anxiously stared out the café’ window. “Lunch was an excellent idea,” he giggled to himself, “we’ve worked together in the same office for years.”
He wondered if he should play music in the small retro jukebox hanging next to him, “No…yes…no!” He nervously flipped the play list back and forth like a teen on his first date.
There she was. He swallowed hard, “Take it easy now. Don’t be nervous,” he told himself as she slid into the booth. “Will you marry me?” There he said it.

In the first story I used the words anxious, giggled, nervous and phases such as, teen on first date.
I tried to instill a mixture of excitement with anxious apprehension. This was a fun exercise. I have difficulty trying to keep it tight and concise. I wanted to be more detailed with the emotions, but the word count kills me every time. Good exercise. I wasn’t sure if combining the two emotions was within the scope of what you wanted or not.

George sadly looked across his neat pile of papers on his well-organized desk. He heard the giggles, observed the camaraderie. Maybe one day he could join in. No! He had too much work to do. His life was his work.
George took out his bologna sandwich. Momma knew exactly how he liked it: two slices of bologna, wheat bread, mustard and lettuce. Keep it simple. Just like George. His life had become like this sandwich. The same every day. Nothing new. Nothing changed.

“Same bologna sandwich Georgie Porgie?” they would tease him. Poor old lonesome George. Twenty years. Just George and his bologna sandwich.

On this second story, I tried to set the stage as a neat kept solitary work space that depicted isolation from his co-workers. The mood was loneliness by choice. A sanctuary of isolation created by routine.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--PLAYING AROUND WITH MOOD

Postby glorybee » Fri Aug 25, 2017 9:53 pm

Well done! You've definitely established two different moods in your little vignettes. Thanks for contributing!
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