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Thread: Dark atmosphere

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Mistiko's Avatar
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    Dark atmosphere

    Hi, everyone!



    This is my first post, although I have been lurking for a while now I m currently working on my first WIP, but I seem to be rather incompetent to create the right atmosphere for my story. So, Id like to know what you guys do in order to create a dark and eerie atmosphere.

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW
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    Hi there Mistiko!

    The usual advice I'd give is to read books that have the kind of atmosphere you want to give your book.

  3. #3
    Not so new, really dirtsider's Avatar
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    What kind of dark and eerie atmosphere are you looking to create? The Victorian-Gothic style? A Hitchcockian style? A gore-fest style?

    What type of story are you looking to write? A mystery? Sci-fi/fantasy?

  4. #4
    Memorial Day Weekend SuperModerator alleycat's Avatar
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    Well, just for starters . . .

    Consider the setting. Some settings are naturally dark and eerie; two classic examples are the old haunted house all alone or a graveyard at night. What settings would make you feel apprehensive? It could be something modern; for example, a club in a rundown part of town when the power suddenly goes off and people can't leave.

    A brooding danger that seems to be lurking but can't quite be defined.

    People who seem to be withholding some dark secret (Rebecca).

    An omen of some impending danger.

    People forced to do something against their will (a good example is Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None where the characters are stuck on an island and there is no way off).

    People who aren't what they seem to be.

    And . . . many more. Brainstorm. What do you find creepy? Think about what others might find eerie.



  5. #5
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Mistiko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirtsider View Post
    What kind of dark and eerie atmosphere are you looking to create? The Victorian-Gothic style? A Hitchcockian style? A gore-fest style?

    What type of story are you looking to write? A mystery? Sci-fi/fantasy?
    Id say the Victorian - Gothic style.
    The story Im trying to write is YA fantasy.


    Quote Originally Posted by alleycat View Post
    Well, just for starters . . .

    Consider the setting. Some settings are naturally dark and eerie; two classic examples are the old haunted house all alone or a graveyard at night. What settings would make you feel apprehensive? It could be something modern; for example, a club in a rundown part of town when the power suddenly goes off and people can't leave.

    A brooding danger that seems to be lurking but can't quite be defined.

    People who seem to be withholding some dark secret (Rebecca).

    An omen of some impending danger.

    People forced to do something against their will (a good example is Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None where the characters are stuck on an island and there is no way off).

    People who aren't what they seem to be.

    And . . . many more. Brainstorm. What do you find creepy? Think about what others might find eerie.

    Well, the setting is very important to me. Gothic cemeteries, empty streets at night, rainy skybut the problem is how many times is it going to rain? How can I maintain the same atmosphere until the end of the novel without having to use these elements again and again and become repetitive? This puzzles me.

  6. #6
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    What makes something gothic dark is remoteness, mystery, peril and hostility all around (people and place)--not specific settings. The main character is placed in a dangerous setting where she doesn't understand everything that is going on and every choice she is presented with could ruin her. Gothics are far more often in ambiguous places that seem normal at first glance than obvious halloweeny bad places.
    Last edited by veinglory; 12-28-2012 at 07:14 AM.

  7. #7
    The grad students did it NeuroFizz's Avatar
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    Beware of cliches here. Dark atmosphere doesn't have to mean low ambient light, and the scenes don't have to take place mostly in the dark, or in fog, or in the rain.

    What happens in the scene will give a definite dark flavor to the scene, but you can have a "dark" setting that is unexpected at first thought. For example, a bright sunny day at the beach can take on a dark atmosphere if the winds are churning massive riptides at regular intervals.

    As a writer, you can take any setting, any time of day, and any weather pattern, and give it a dark atmosphere to match what the characters are doing. In fact, I will propose that it is the actions and reactions of the characters that form the pillar of the dark tone of the scene, and once that is set in place, the setting can be added to enhance the tone of the scene's action arc.
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  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW
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    Try:

    Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
    Affinity by Sarah Waters
    The Road by Cormac McCarthy

    As for how many times it can rain...it rained here nearly every day last summer.

  9. #9
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Mistiko's Avatar
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    Thank you all for your replies.

    I'll try different approaches and see what works better. It's not that I don't have any ideas, it's just that I'm not sure which one is better.

  10. #10
    Not so new, really dirtsider's Avatar
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    Some good mini-series/movies that might be helpful for ideas on atmosphere are:

    Woman in Black - this is the movie that Daniel Radcliffe was in, I think this year. This is a ghost story.
    Woman in White - this is a mini-series. I think it's from the 1990's or early 2000's at least. This is a mystery, quasi-ghost story.

  11. #11
    Girl Detective AW Moderator Stacia Kane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NeuroFizz View Post

    As a writer, you can take any setting, any time of day, and any weather pattern, and give it a dark atmosphere to match what the characters are doing. In fact, I will propose that it is the actions and reactions of the characters that form the pillar of the dark tone of the scene, and once that is set in place, the setting can be added to enhance the tone of the scene's action arc.

    This.

    It's sort of like, is the glass half-empty or half-full?

    An example I used once: Think of an empty room on a sunny day. The windows are open, and the curtains flutter in the breeze.

    Now. In a cheerful story, a character in a cheerful mood might look at that room and see the bright patches of sunlight on the floor, and how optimistic it looks, and how the room is waiting eagerly to be filled with life. S/he might picture children laughing and playing in there, the walls bright yellow, the room so full of hope it's leaking out the windows into the world beyond.

    In a dark-toned story, the character might just see emptiness, the windows like empty eyes glaring at him/her. They might see the shadows in the corners. The emptiness of the room is oppressive, like something waiting to consume him/her. The sunshine is an invasion, a symbol of their inability to escape the outside world even inside; there is no safe place. They might see cracks at the baseboards, dirt or grime from decades of careless misuse.

    You make the setting mean what you want it to mean. Rain and gloom are classic and useful, but it's really in the descriptions.
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  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW
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    The Woman in Black is also a novel.

    Oh, and don't forget the master of creep: Poe.

  13. #13
    Feeling like an old timer rainsmom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mistiko View Post
    but the problem is how many times is it going to rain?
    <grin> Set it in Seattle between November 1 and July 1. It'll rain plenty.
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  14. #14
    That hairy-handed gent
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    One of the greatest writers ever at creating a dark and brooding atmosphere, and justly famed for it, is the Victorian writer J.S. LeFanu. Despite being "Victorian", usually considered these days a pejorative insult, LeFanu is much more readable than most writers of that era, and really worth a look. Dark mystery more than supernatural, but great settings. Try Uncle Silas or Wylder's Hand. I think many of his works are available free on-line.

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  15. #15
    Girl Detective AW Moderator Stacia Kane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buffysquirrel View Post
    The Woman in Black is also a novel.
    So is THE WOMAN IN WHITE.

    Oh, and don't forget the master of creep: Poe.

    Absolutely.
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  16. #16
    Horror Man seun's Avatar
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    Read some Robert E. Howard or Lovecraft.

  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stacia Kane View Post
    So is THE WOMAN IN WHITE.
    And the woman in grey? Is she still in production?

  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW madrynea's Avatar
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    I think a contrast between setting and the character's mood or actions can create an especially eerie atmosphere, though I'm not sure if that is what you mean when you say dark. For example, a murder described in broad sunlight is, to me, much more disturbing than one happening in the middle of the night. A character who thinks happy thoughts while hurting another is more eerie than one who suffers for his own crimes. Then again, a child standing in the middle of a dark road is definitely freakier than one in a sunny living room. :P I guess my point is, contrast creates very interesting situations, and you can play around a lot with it.

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  19. #19
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Mistiko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buffysquirrel View Post
    The Woman in Black is also a novel.

    Oh, and don't forget the master of creep: Poe.
    It is embarassing to say that I have not read Poe at all. I shall start immediately!

    Quote Originally Posted by madrynea View Post
    I think a contrast between setting and the character's mood or actions can create an especially eerie atmosphere, though I'm not sure if that is what you mean when you say dark. For example, a murder described in broad sunlight is, to me, much more disturbing than one happening in the middle of the night. A character who thinks happy thoughts while hurting another is more eerie than one who suffers for his own crimes. Then again, a child standing in the middle of a dark road is definitely freakier than one in a sunny living room. :P I guess my point is, contrast creates very interesting situations, and you can play around a lot with it.
    Yes, you are right. I'll try that too. Thanks!

  20. #20
    Tell it like it Is Susan Littlefield's Avatar
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    Poe is super dark! Love him.

    You can take any situation and give it dark elements. I read a short story (or novel?) by Dean Koontz once where this couple is out hiking, all happy and everything, then he pushes her off a cliff. Even in that family outing, there was a dark element.
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