How Important is Mood in Story-telling?

While streaming season 2 of The Fall, some thoughts recurred from when I watched the 1st season. First, the premise and concept (another serial killer) offer little if any innovation. Ditto for The Fall, and the importance of mood in story-tellingthe details of the murders or investigation. The show may also feel slow. At times, things happen and the camera focuses on things that don’t directly advance the plot. Some sub-plots may feel like filler.

Yet, the story grabs me. I suppose a big part of it ties to great acting that folds in nicely with a strong character-driven narrative. But if I had to put my finger on one thing that draws me in, I’d have to point to mood. This ambiance or ethos results from the music and cinematography, yes, but also from those dead, seemingly unrelated moments and sub-plots I mentioned above.

The experience has brought me a greater appreciation for mood in story-telling. At times I may feel tempted to focus on action–what’s happening next and how does the conflict ramp up. But I will pay more attention to mood in my own story-telling from now on.

In my own writing, I find that mood most often results from what I call inside-out character point of view–how a character views and experiences the world around him, the feelings that a certain situation evoke in her, and maybe even the internal talk that a certain situation drives. Heck even those usually boring descriptions and weather reports can gain poignancy when they communicate mood rather than dump information on the reader.

As a reader, what role do you think mood plays in story-telling? How does affect you, and are you willing to put up with more deliberate delivery in order to sustain it?

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