Creating atmosphere will not only draw the reader into the scene but can also help to create the tension and conflict in the storyline.  There are many ways to create atmosphere.  Not all of them are necessary to include in every scene, of course, only those that add value to the storyline.  Here are some elements to consider when creating atmosphere.


Air temperature, wind, precipitation, fog, sunny/overcast, day/night.

Example:  Without warning the rain came down in thin sheets. Marie ran back to the car with Richard close behind her, but instead of opening the door for her, he held her up against the car and kissed her, right there in the rain. Heat from their bodies rose like steam in the wet humid air.


Sounds, smells, sights, touch, taste.

Example:  The heavy stench of cigar smoke filled the room.  Everyone was talking at once, but one woman’s high-pitched voice rose above the deep blended voices of the men.


Setting, location, people, animals, landscape, scenery, nature, actions, obstacles, threats.

Example:  Hundreds of people had gathered in Times Square to watch the demonstrators face off with police.


Dialogue, body language, emotions.

Example:  She slouched down into the only chair in the room–a worn overstuffed lounger she had retrieved from her dead mother’s apartment that morning.  “Damn cancer,” she murmured before taking a healthy swig of bourbon.  Tears cascaded down her cheeks and landed on the bodice of the dark silk blouse she had worn to the funeral.


Clothing styles, car models, lingo/slang, mannerisms, moralities, politics, music, theater.

Example:  He got into his four-year-old 1936 Auburn Boattail Speedster and turned on the radio.   Glen Miller was crooning the last few lyrics of Fools Rush In.  He looked at himself in the mirror, adjusted his black felt Fedora and headed for the Roosevelt political rally.


Internal dialogue, body language.

Example:  “How could he do this to me?” she asked herself through clenched teeth.  She pounded the wall with the side of her fist.  “He could have at least told me in person,” she thought.


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