Mood Changers

girl reading by a tree

Image from We Heart It.

This morning I saw an article which Maggie Stiefvater wrote for The Guardian that I really liked. Go check it out if you haven’t had a chance to read it. The gist of it is that she talks about how she changes moods through her writing.

I begin every creative project with a mood in my head. Every scene is planned out to feel a certain way. I navigate readers’ emotions like a small ship through a rocky strait. If I have not got inside your brain and moved emotional furniture around during the course of my novel, I feel I’ve failed.

That sounds sinister.

I mean for it to.

I felt like this is a spot-on description of how a good book can transport us to a different setting and situation, letting us experience what the characters are experiencing and as a result, changing how we feel the moment we are reading. I admit that I’m an escapist reader, I love picking up a book and losing myself within the story. The books that resonate and stand out for me are the ones that I can relate to – the ones that can make me ache and feel for the characters. The ones that can make me believe that fiction is reality while I’m in the middle of the book (or even better when the story and characters stay with me after I’ve finished). The very best ones leave me with a book hangover when I can’t stop thinking about the book because it feels like I’m still stuck in that world. I have to make a conscious mental effort to pull myself out of it. That kind of absorption happens in degrees – I can be really engrossed by a book or just be slightly into it. When I can’t find even the smallest of connections with a book, I feel like it didn’t really work for me. This is also probably also why there are times when I have to be in a certain mood to read a particular book – like I would want to read a feel good title when I’m feeling down or I need to steel myself before I read an emotionally heavy novel.

Earlier, my co-workers and I were talking about our daily commute and how crowded the MRT trains get in the mornings. One of them mentioned that she just watches movies and shows in her smartphone to drown out the reality of being squished by people around her. I’ve noticed that I’m like that with books – I tend to be oblivious to my surroundings when I’m absorbed by a great book. There was even a time when I missed my stop because I was reading. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t enjoy reading, probably very boring and lonely.

I agree with Maggie, well-written novels can change a reader’s mood and she was able to accomplish that when I read The Scorpio Races, and more recently The Dream Thieves. What do you think about Maggie’s article? Do you agree with the idea that authors are mood changers? Let me know what you think.


3 thoughts on “Mood Changers

  1. I think she’s right about the effect, and I think you’re right about the importance of an emotional connection to the reading experience, but I have a hard time imagining actually *thinking about this explicitly* while writing. For me, a playlist just needs not to interfere with conscious thought — in other words, for me, while writing: Enya yes, Coldplay no.

    • I can imagine how difficult it is to deliberately think about setting a mood while writing so maybe it doesn’t happen all the time, but maybe when you first start a story? Like when you initially have the idea, you also think of how you want the reader to feel while going through the story? And I’m sure writing is different from everyone so what works for one author may not work for another. I do agree about not letting music interfere with conscious thought, which is probably why I don’t really listen to music when I’m reading.

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