Guest Author - Bluedolphin Crow
Atmosphere in your creative nonfiction writing is one of the most versatile tools you can have as a writer when creating settings for your work. Atmosphere adds the unique mood that will emerge from the meaning and action of your scenes.
Most elements of atmosphere contain a minimum of both time and weather. Use one of the seasons, for example. Show us whether it is rainy or in the middle of a dry spell or drought. Is there a storm approaching or just a light spring breeze?
Any combination of these elements add mood to your writing and help to paint pictures with words. You are setting the emotion or state of mind, bringing the inner experience outside. You can use symbolic or concrete expressions, depending on the experience you want your readers to have.
Altering the elements to match what you are trying to portray in the setting and the characters themselves helps to bring everything to life. Emotions can be strong or subtle depending on what is happening to the characters in that moment in your scene.
For example, are your characters entering a room and feeling claustrophobic and wanting to leave quickly or is the room soothing, allowing them to relax or reminisce?
Just as you experience different emotions with different room colors and shapes, different landscapes, or different locales, so should your characters. Is the landscape bringing your character a spiritual lift or lightness, or is it depressing them?
Be sure to match the effects of the atmosphere with the personality of your characters. Some people love the cold as it enlivens them, others loathe the cold as it makes them stiff and changes their mood from happy to angry.
Is your setting one that your character has returned to after many years away? What is their reaction to it? Sometimes we can love something when we are young and later in life it brings us sad memories or creates pain or confusion to us.
Is there a part of the weather that is important or dangerous to your character?
A calm day on a beach to one person is a reason to vacation or lounge around. To a hurricane survivor, it can signal emotions of panic reminding them of the eye of the storm from a past devastation.
Look at your character and the setting you want to use and match the characters desire in each scene with the setting, or use the setting to bring out things about the character the reader does not know yet.
Take your time when creating a setting for your scenes. Make sure to use as many of your senses as possible. I learned in a writing group that I routinely left out the sense of smell in my creative writing. For years I had not noticed this because, when I was a young teenager, I suffered a head injury and lost my sense of smell. I discovered, with their help, that without a sense of smell I had forgotten other people are highly affected by scents and aromas.
Since then I make sure to include the scent of something in nature or in the environment around my characters in my scenes to draw the reader closer to the story. It also helps them to feel, see, and experience it more fully for themselves as they relax and read.