Pushin’ It

There have been a lot of fantastic ideas on atmosphere this month. We’ve all pushed it around and come up with some great thoughts and images. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the posts of my “blogglings”, I encourage you to get another cup of coffee, or whatever you’re drinking at the moment, and check them out.

Here’s what I came up with when I pushed the idea of atmosphere around in my head:

Sure, atmosphere can be setting. Are we in the Sonoran Desert or the Colorado Rockies or the jungle in Peru? It’s gonna look and feel different. It can be era—is the story set in the 1700’s the 2000’s or the 2300’s? It’s gonna look and feel different. It can be weather, that whole “dark and gloomy night” trope. You get it, it’s gonna look and feel different.

Three guesses where I’m going.

I think at its core, atmosphere is emotion. What is pushing through the skin of the character? Is it fear? Lust? Happiness? If I write the scene right, I can change a sunny day at a backyard birthday party into an atmosphere that’s heavy and painful and foreboding… through emotion.

Recently I finished the first draft of my new manuscript centered around three young girls who’ve been trafficked. It’s a subject that carries its own atmosphere, but when I begin the initial editing/revision process (later today after I schedule this post) one of the things I’ll be looking for is some kind of atmosphere on every page.

Atmosphere is that ethereal element that puts a reader right inside the story. They might be observers (it’s often safer that way) but they’re at that backyard birthday party when things go south and everything changes.

Yeah, the wind might come up and the balloons might come loose, but it’s the emotion that took place just before and the emotional reaction the wind creates that fully builds the atmosphere.

Agree? Disagree?

It’s all better with friends.




Author: Peg Brantley

With the intent to lend her stories credibility, Peg is a graduate of the Aurora Citizens’ Police Academy, attended the Writers’ Police Academy conference, has interviewed crime scene investigators, FBI agents, human trafficking experts, obtained her Concealed Carry Permit, studied diverse topics from arson dogs to Santeria, and hunted down real life locations that show up in her stories.

7 thoughts on “Pushin’ It”

  1. Agree. Just as I was finishing this post, a squirrel ran across the roof over my head. Normally, the picture in my mind would be a bit cartoonish, with the squirrel sporting a goofy terrified expression as it bounces across the tiles. But I’d just read a couple chapters of Louise Penny’s THE GREAT RECKONING and my cartoon squirrel took on an entirely new persona. French-Canadian. Darker. More mysterious. Furtive. Picking its way through the snow rather than the bright blue sky I see out my window.


  2. Great post, Peg! I completely agree–the emotion of a scene plays a key role in creating the atmosphere. And love the example with the squirrel, Becky!


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