Writers Write creates writing resources and shares writing tips. In this post, we suggest how you can use light in writing. We tell you how you can give light the time of day in your story.
How do you use light in your story? Maybe it’s something you write instinctively; perhaps you haven’t given it much thought. Light comes into your story in many ways – and if you use it consciously, it can improve your novel or story.
From first light to midnight
For a moment, play with two images in your mind. The first, a farm house, seen from a distant hill at dawn. See the soft diffusion of light around the house, the sun glancing off the roof, the shadows around the house.
Now the second image. See the same house, from the same hill, but at midnight: try to see the almost indistinct white walls in the moonlight, the dim candle light in the small window.
As you can tell, things look different in different light and at different times of the day – even if the object itself doesn’t change. Your writing needs to capture this. Follow the light in your story.
In your eyes…
The same behaviour applies to your characters. Perhaps their eyes change colour – darken or lighten – during the day. Sometimes strong emotion can change eye colour, but often it is the light coming into the iris that can change the way other characters see the colour of your character’s eyes.
Trick of light
And because of the way light behaves, it can play tricks on our minds. The watery mirage in a desert is an obvious example – but think about how a road or highway looks ‘wet’ on an intensely hot day because of the way light refracts on the surface.
Mood for thought
For me, the best light is during what is often called the ‘blue hour’ – just before dawn or just after sunset, when the edge of the sky turns a beautiful sapphire colour – it’s like a rim filling up or draining. In twilight or pre-dawn, we find a very moody colour.
Imagine a lonely jogger finding a body on a beach just before dawn, or two characters making love in the quiet shadows after sundown. How would that enhance the mood of your story?
Paint with light in your words
These are just a few examples. In the next week, try to pay attention to how you use light in your descriptions. Look for opportunities to bring out colour, emotion and mood in your story.
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