Thursday, October 27, 2011


The wishbone will never replace the backbone.
- Will Henry

In writing, it is all about atmosphere. When you have a story to tell you’re not going to have the setting in a grassy knoll and just leave your characters there, no, you’re going to give them an atmosphere.

An atmosphere lends to the story what milk lends to cookies. And a good atmosphere lends what cookies dipped in milk does. Can everyone say, YUM? As a reader, I want to walk through the park with the writer, I don’t just want to see grass, I want to smell it and taste it.

If we can’t paint a picture for our reader then we are missing our mark. Even in our non-fictional tales there has to be an element of atmosphere where if the reader is sitting there with cookies, his one hand is seeking out the milk to dip it in as he is reading because he is so enthralled with your words.

As writers, we know that the very first sentence will lure the reader in like Lucifer to Eve. It will be life altering if you can hold your readers attention and give to them a story that will keep them reading page after page. I wonder sometimes if God knew of this concept and that is why he made the bible so atmospheric. With the very beginning, “God breathed life into the void.” To the powerful ending, “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly.”

I mean come on, there is power in those words and every reader is moved. And every writer wants to emulate that power of the written word, so that our readers for many years to come are still wanting more; loving our words and tasting them years down the line. is what spills into your readers hearts, and no one is left there to clean up the mess except your hero or heroine. I myself like to give my readers little bits and pieces to nibble on throughout the story; a leg to stand on so to speak. I like to give them an entrance into the unexpected, then deal the unexpected, make the words do a ghostly dance in their minds, then I go for the cha cha cha...and boom, the story gets completed with a bow.

One of my favorite fictional tales is The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Not only is the story good, but the atmosphere is well, you guessed it, haunting. From the opening scene of Eleanor and her paranoia, to the entry of the supposed haunted house to the banging and rapping of ghosts to the climactic ending where all the characters are consumed with the final showdown.

This is just a well written story and can really give the novice writers a new perspective on the inverted check mark that we read about so often. What are you going to do writers, open your story with the same old same old tried and true...or lend your tale a handful of atmosphere to kick it in the rear and get it moving?

Write Right...most importantly!


benning said...

"The Haunting" is superb for sensory details, as is "Something Wicked This Way Comes." There is a point where the senses can overwhelm the story itself. But the more practiced the writer, the less that happens. Let the reader experience the scene, not just read about it. :D

Good post! :)

joni said...

Thanks Ben, it is all about atmosphere! :)

M. SUE said...

Our teacher is back!

joni said...

Thank you! Thank you!
(and thanks for the apple) ;)