top of page

Writing Tools: Light and Dark! By Susan Hanniford Crowley

In writing, the use of light or dark or the in-between creates an atmosphere, a mood that affects your characters and the story.

Light can be expressed in many forms. Sunshine for many people brings happiness and hope. Sunshine on the flowers in a meadow calls forth animals to feed. Young to frolic. Sunshine on a city street awakens a city to its daily business. Colors fill the vision with excitement, radiance, and splendor. Natural light is usually an expression of the good things in life.

A character can see clearly what is around them with the exception of anything in shadow. Shadows in a time when the place in the story is enjoying sunlight is a tease of something mysterious. It could be seductive. Or it can lead the character into a shadowy world where not everything is seen and bad things happen. Shadows may hide the truth of what is really happening in that alleyway. Drugs. Murder. Death. Shadows can hide the evil in a character’s heart.

Breakthrough light gives the impression of hope, a spot of safety whether it’s light coming through a prisoner’s cell window or a sparse city bedroom where a young woman dances wishing for a spotlight. It can signify a chance of success or happiness.

Artificial lights change possibilities giving a chance at happiness or casting a dreary light on a hopeless situation. Streetlights can form a type of spotlight marking a fraudulent form of safety or highlighting loneliness and despair. Carnival lights can be exciting and fun, temporarily hiding the night to fill the air with the scents of popcorn and cotton candy. They can also be ominous in a story.

Spotlights can put pressure on a character to perform and show their success or failure. Headlights can show a clear road ahead or sudden danger.

The light within that a character sees can beckon them to the afterlife. A character waking from surgery experiences a growing light until they can see those around them.

Dawn stretches out with its colors and breakthrough light to embrace a new day giving hope. Sometimes revealing the tragedy on the battlefield. Dawn can bring relief to those that have survived war or illness. Dawn is a new beginning and often a do-over.

Twilight can be romantic or a foreboding of evil yet to come. Sometimes it’s both. Unlike dawn, the colors of light play as they withdraw leaving behind growing shadows. Characters can cling to the last remnants of light hoping for the best, reminiscing about the past, or fearing what’s to come. In fantasy, twilight is when the faeries come out to play.

Starlight and moonlight can create an atmosphere of romance. Your characters might dance in the moonlight and wish on a star. But in those places where the light fades or is gone entirely something scary might lurk.

In the dark, there is loneliness and a fear that something frightening is hiding. Nightmares rule. The characters might lock up their house to be safe and then go to bed to dream of good times. Unidentified sounds in the dark indicate peril. Fear of the unknown rules when darkness falls engulfing the world your character lives in. Pitch dark is terrifying because a character loses their sense of direction. It’s harder to determine where a sound is coming from. Without even the tiniest bit of light, hope is lost.

Unless the character is armed with a flashlight or a candle, they feel helpless.

These are all examples of how light and dark are used in stories, novels, and movies. Use light and dark in your tales to make a richer experience for your readers.

Happy Writing!


Writing Tools: Weather Dilemmas By Susan Hanniford Crowley

For today, we are talking about a very important writing tool. It’s using your characters’ environment to set a mood or present a challenge in the plot. In some stories, the weather and how the characters react to it is the story.

The movie “Day After Tomorrow” was based on the fiction novel The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber.

There is a lot of non-faction facts in fiction. Even in a fantasy novel that has battles, you can be sure that the author has studied historical battles.

In this case, we are looking at an incoming storm. Write what you do to prepare or how you are already prepared. Go into the detail of the storm, how it starts, and looks and sounds. Scents if you find them. Some people can smell snow in the wind.

Whether you are having a snowstorm, tornado, tsunami, volcano, etc., this is an opportunity to use what you know. For your characters, trying to survive shows their true mettle. Weaknesses are revealed as well as strengths.

Remember while you’re writing this that survivors tell the tale. When writing fiction there will be lots of things that you make up, but putting some non-fiction in it makes it more relatable and believable.

So go forth and while you are safe from the storm write. If your journey started with an evacuation, write that too.

bottom of page