Setting: Techniques and Devices

Light and Shadow

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What’s one of the first things a person does to set the mood at home for a romantic evening? She turns down the lights. This simple adjustment is a big step toward creating a calm, receptive atmosphere. Just as the amount and quality of lighting will influence the way people feel in real life, we can adjust the mood for both characters and readers in our stories by playing with light and shadow.

Most everyone has familiar places that they’ve visited in daylight. But enter that same place at night and it becomes unfamiliar, with a totally different feel. By changing the amount and quality of light in a given place, you can shift the mood without changing the setting. For example, consider L. M. Montgomery’s description of Birch Path, a recurring location in her Anne of Green Gables series:

        It was a little narrow, twisting path, winding down over a long hill straight through Mr. Bell’s woods, where the light came down sifted through so many emerald screens that it was as flawless as the heart of a diamond.


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