Some Thoughts on the Nature of Mood in Writing

When a writer sits down to compose a piece of writing, he or she invariably creates an accompanying mood. The mood may be reflective, whimsical, or satirical. The mood may be angry, whistful, or sorrowful. The mood may convey a sense of determination, or a sense of resignation - - - a sense of hope, or a sense of despair - - - a sense of purpose, or a sense of confusion.

But every piece of writing, from the greatest works of literature down to the scribbled note on the kitchen table carries with it some sort of mood.

If you stop to think about it, it's impossible to write without including a mood in your writing. Just as you cannot speak without speaking in some, so you cannot write without creating a certain mood. Even writing this is purposefully flat has a mood - - - the mood of being "purposefully flat."

And it's this very mood that holds a piece of writing together. It links a string of thoughts into a coherent whole. It tells you where the author is coming from. The mood is the humanity of the author in print.

The real irony, of course, is that mood gives the writing structure and purpose. And yet, the mood is as fleeting as the early morning fog. You can see it all around you, but you can never touch it.

Any time you try to pinpoint the mood in any one sentence, you find yourself pointing in the direction of thin air. For the mood itself never exists in any given sentence. The mood is the aura created by many sentences.

It exists nowhere on the page. It exists everywhere around the page.

Perhaps the best way to understand the concept of mood is to consider what it means to you, as the reader. The mood is the essence of the writing you take with you. Five years down the road you will undoutedly have forgotten most of the details of the books you read last week. But the mood - - - the mood lives on in memory.

Such is the enigma of the written word. We can hold the words of a book in our own two hands. But the swirling tangle of thoughts and feelings conveyed by those words can only be sensed by the mind.

Phil Shapiro

Copyright 1995

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