Edgar Allan Poe knew a thing or two about mood. (Though, regrettably, whoever immortalized this quote in the graphic above did not know how Poe spelled his middle name.)

I’ve read books, articles, blog posts and commentary on every aspect of story telling: character development, plot, grammar, exposition, even motivation. (Don’t do it for the money!) However, this quote from Poe makes me wonder if all the how-to-write-fiction stuff out there is missing a piece. I can’t recall ever reading anything about mood, apart from this quote.

Granted, mood is a piece of all the other elements of story telling, but it is more than that. It truly is the sum of the parts. It includes setting, character development, motivation (the characters–not yours) and even grammar. (Don’t believe me? Read Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes and tell me unconventional grammar can’t be a story-telling technique.) My point is, all these things contribute to and combine to create the mood of a story.

And Poe is right. A story, sometimes even a book, should have a single mood it builds toward. At the very least, the mood at any one point in time should be singular. Mingling moods works about as well as trying to combine perfumes. The headache you get from walking through the perfume section of a department store is reminiscent of the pain your readers will feel if you try to make your story chipper and somehow tense at the same time.

Moods can be complex, though. Think “bitter-sweet”. Now there’s a complex mood, and one a story could easily settle on. Just make sure you know what the mood is, simple or complex, and make sure the story maintains that mood throughout. Like the pieces of a puzzle, each sentence should slide into place creating a bigger picture that is the mood of the entire tale.

If you want to watch the master at work, go read some Poe. All 5 volumes of The Works of Edgar Allan Poe are free in eBook format over on Amazon.

Happy Halloween.


About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

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