Thursday, September 18, 2008

Finally, A New Question For Writers

I know it's been a long time since I've posted one of my writer's questions, but it's been a busy summer.

The question: How do you use props to evoke atmosphere? Are props just part of the setting, or are they important touchstones or emotional shorthand?

Beginning writers confuse the props in a scene with creating an atmosphere. A four-poster bed with red velvet curtains can be erotic, posh, period, tacky as hell, sinister, trying too hard, or romantic, but not because of the piece of furniture. What makes it any of those things is the emotion it evokes in the main character and the tone of the piece. A bare mattress on the floor is a place to sleep too, after all. And a bare mattress on the floor can evoke any of the same feelings if the flow leading up to seeing that prop channels the reader and the main character into the right frame of mind. That's my opinion. What's yours?

1 comment:

Amanda Earl said...

i think a combination of elements help to create atmosphere, including the setting. but this should be quite subtle and not cliche, such as the velvet curtain example. Ernest Hemingway was great at this. in one story he wrote about a cuckolded husband who goes on a safari to kill a lion; all the way leading up to the climax, we have little bits of setting and descriptions that give off a tone of conflict between the man and his wife, and much of this is done in the background with no emotional involvement from the characters at all, until the night before the hunt when the man hears the terrible roaring of the lion and it upsets him, frightens him, frightens the reader too...