Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Quick take: Turn down the lights

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Sep• 24•15

dark night of the soulSetting is a powerful device for creating tension in fiction. When you’re planning scenes where danger lurks, here’s the trick:  turn down the lights. Link moonless skies, gray curtains of rain, or gloomy weather to a deathbed vigil, a battle scene, or harrowing journey. Force characters to travel down lonely, lawless stretches of road.  If you want to conjure up a dark, scary world, bring on haze, fog, smog, mist-shrouded mountains, freezing rain, the gloaming, deepening of twilight. Stir in bruised skies,  dying embers,  shadowy alleyways and ravines, turbulent seas, dense forests, savage winds, a murder of crows.  

candle flameIf you’re feeling beneficent, your characters can stumble along in the dark carrying waning candles, sputtering torches, or flickering lamp light. Or, your setting can  create trial after trial for your characters, the results exhausting, scarring, soul poisoning. 

Color brings us all deep pleasures, but at times you must snatch it Crows on jungle gym in The Birdsaway, mute the story world for effect. Humans operate at a disadvantage in the dark. We have an innate unease with  nighttime and dark places.  Dim the lights to create insecurity or reveal a landscape of grief and loss. Tease your with readers with uneasiness, make them sense peril,  fears monsters that might lurk in the dark….


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