On Better Writing: Achieving Mood Through Diction

The Third Component of Mood

writing

In our writing journey, we previously explored the concept of creating mood through setting and tone — two very important literary devices.

Now we can tackle diction, and how the clever infusion of just the right words can create mood. This writing technique will improve your writing, elevate your manuscript, and provide your audience with a better reading experience.

What is Diction?

Diction is your choice of words and phrases. Author Paul Carvel is quoted as saying, “The writer dreams of being the sculptor of words and the painter of ideas.” Indeed diction is critical because each word and phrase you select communicates mood and reinforces meaning.

Developmental book editors often help authors with word choice and phrasing that can and should evoke mood. This “sculpting” and “painting” propels the events of the story onward.

You, the wordsmith, are responsible for creating mood-shaping backgrounds and depicting interesting events, compelling narratives, and riveting dialogue. Every word should have a purpose, whether that be to heighten, diminish or establish competing and contrasting moods.

Better Writing: Mood and Diction

Below is an example of mood-inspiring dialogue that highlights the situational hijinks of some mischievous young boys. The word choices (diction) pull readers this way and that.

“Awww, you cut the grass!” exclaimed Ingrid. “Thank you, Jakie!” She placed her purse on the counter and hugged her young son.

“Um…” said Jake.

“And you weeded the flower beds!” she continued. “What a nice surprise. I had really dreadful day, and I still have to get the rest of the food ready for the church pot luck.”

“Um Mom…” Jake persisted.

“Yes, son?”

Jacob swallowed hard, his guilt drying his throat. He didn’t expect his mother to arrive for another hour.

A muffled crunching noise escaped from behind the pantry door. Ingrid jumped and her nine year old just gritted his teeth.

“Who’s that? Come out,” ordered Ingrid, reaching across the counter and grabbing a rolling pin. “And I mean now.”

“Hi, Mrs. Dawson,” said Freddy, Mike and Paulie, who exited from the pantry with crumbs on their mouth and grass clippings on their shoes. Two dozen Pepsi cans, three empty pie pans, half a bowl of potato salad, and a plate of rib bones littered the pantry floor.

Ingrid inhaled deeply and shot a gobsmacked look at her son. “Jacob, you didn’t!” she said.

“Mom…”

“Tell me you did not trade yard work for food,” said Ingrid.

Freddy piped up, “He surely did, ma’am. He said to help ourselves to whatever we wanted…after we mowed and weeded.”

“So you really thought you’d get away with this?” Ingrid asked Jake, incredulous. “Do you think I’m stupid and wouldn’t notice all this food was missing?”

“Well, it worked last time,” Freddy interjected, letting loose a muffled laugh.

“What do you mean?” demanded Ingrid.

“Oh. Maybe I shouldn’t say…” Freddy said, stifling a burp and looking at Jake.

“Too late. Spill it!” shouted Ingrid, who still held the rolling pin.

The three 9-year-old interlopers began babbling all at once, but Freddy’s voice rose from the chaos. “Remember last month when you came home and found the dog on the counter?” he said. “You know, right before the church picnic?

“Oh sweet Lord. Don’t tell me you boys ate the food and blamed poor Spot?” Her eyes narrowed and and focused on her son like laser beams.

“Um…well, we gave Spot some macaroni salad, so it wasn’t technically all a total lie,” said Jake, avoiding the laser beams.

“Jacob Michael Dawson, don’t you get slick with me!” threatened his mother. “You boys clean up this mess. Right now!”

“Yes, ma’am,” they said with synchronized manners. Then Freddie piped up, “Can I take home a doggie bag?”

Literary Elements

Mood is just one of many literary elements in the world of writing. I’ll add more in the months to come, so follow the blog! In the meantime, what project do you have in the works? A chapter? A book? A treatment? The challenge is to write every day. That’s what writers do — write!

Contact me at Melanie@MelanieSaxtonMedia.com and let’s tackle your project!

About the Author

Hi! I’m fortunate to be one of those creative types who work in the world of words. I knew very early on that I would be a freelance writer and editor. What I didn’t know was that I’d end up interviewing some of the most fascinating public figures around! I also write about wonderful community-minded people who are making a difference in the world.

I’m an English major and proud alumnus of University of Houston. Through the years I’ve studied various writing and reporting disciplines and have built a career writing papers, press releases, announcements, speeches, toasts, newsletters and obituaries. I’ve also written many magazine articles for some of the best publications around. As a ghost writer, online editor, contributing editor and news reporter I’ve learned a thing or two about people and the stories they feel compelled to share.

I love teaching what I know best. As an English tutor (ESL and Special Education) as well as a certified English, Language Arts and Reading teacher, I share insights into the writing disclipine. I earned my teaching credentials well after establishing a writing career. Bringing real life experience into a classroom is very rewarding, especially when working with special needs students.

I specialize in editing, ghost writing or co-writing books for aspiring authors. And yes, I have a couple “Great American Novels” of my own percolating at this point. The advice any good writing expert will give is, “Finish what you start.” We’ll see as time goes on if my own books end up on your Kindle.

If you are over your head with a writing project, consider hiring an editor. That’s what we do . . . a good writer / editor’s job is to make your manuscript, press release, article, speech or paper sparkle.

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