Sunday, 17 July 2011

Crafting atmosphere

It has been raining quite a lot today, on and off. when it is not raining it is sunny and windy. it made me think of two recent posts, this one and that one. And also of a much older one, which I wrote back in July 2009. I was thinking that writers, whether they write crime fiction or horror stories, craft atmosphere. In a way, it is their trade, it is what they produce and sell.

Clichés and common places are nice, but of course there are other ways to work with the genre. Crime novels are meant to be summery reads, things you read on a hot day, with a scenery that fits the surroundings of the reader (say one of Jean-Claude Izzo's novels, set in sunny Marseille). But crime fiction set in the middle of a nasty winter in Montreal would work just as well and would create its own kind of atmosphere (which reminds me that I need to write that story one day). A rainy day like today brings its own ominous, menacing feel. I guess nasty rain is also a cliché in crime fiction, it also pictures the grey and often monotonous life of its protagonists, which flow is interrupted by violence. When it comes to horror fiction, you have other sorts of clichés. But as my brother mentioned in my recent post on sacrecrows, a sunny afternoon can be just as scary as a dark and stormy night. You see evil appearing out of nowhere, is presence troubling the otherwise peaceful environment. In Night of the Living Dead, the first zombie we see is during daytime. And it is not incidental that Dracula as originally imagined by Stoker, while a nocturnal creature, could also walk in daylight. I shiver when I see a scarecrow stand in a field. A fairly strong wind can be very scary in the middle of a sunny day. I could imagine all sorts of bogeymen walking in on a warm August day in a wood, a quiet village or a garden.

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