The sun is setting, and I’m standing on the beach watching along with a few scattered onlookers who have gathered to experience this once-a-day miracle of color and majesty. The air is soft and cool, the waves lap softly at my feet.
Light of setting sun
Transforms the ocean waves
Into liquid gold.
“Can’t we go now?” a voice whines. “We’ve been here forever. I’m cold, this is so a waste of time.”
The 12 year old is huddled in a jacket and has dug her sneakers into the sand. Her mouth is turned down, her eyes are narrowed, and everything about her exudes disgust and boredom. Amused, I glance to my left and see a couple probably in their late teens, the girl leaning against her companion. His cheek is against her hair, sunlight reflects against their rapt faces, and their world has narrowed to two. I can almost hear romantic mood music playing.
What would we do without Mood? It’s the staple of any artist. A painter finds it in her palette; a quilter in the hues and values of fabric, a writer uses words to portray a scene, set a tone. So should I want to create a pivotal scene which will reveal the thoughts and motivations of many people, I use a tactic that I call the Moody Blues.
In this sunset scene the Moody Blues is already at work. There is the bored-out-of-her-skull tweenie who is continuing to whine that she never gets to do anything, that she has sand in her sneakers and, listen, she’s already said she’s hungry. There are the young lovers. If I were to write their thoughts, they might go something like this: There’s never been a sunset like this, no, not since the world began, and it’s a sign of our love, isn’t it? Of course it is, of course.
For some variety, I’m going to imagine that someone else is watching this same setting sun on a ship far out at sea and feeling a sense of dread because night is coming and he has a premonition that something is going to happen. He thinks: That old sun is telling me something. It’s a sign for me to get out while I still can. No, I have to get a grip. It’s just a sunset.
Moody Blues can be subtle or it can slap down, hard. Consider that girl standing on the sand dune some distance away. Her face is hard and set, her hands are fisted at her sides as she watches the young lovers. What does he see in her? It makes me sick to watch them. She ruins everything for me. I hate her!” And the green-eyed monster is off and running.
Moody Blues can be used to change any two-dimensional character into a Person Of Interest. Depending on the way I want my story to go, I can turn the sight of this beautiful sunset into something peaceful, or miserable, or ominous, or scary. Let’s go with scary and imagine yet another character—let’s make him lean and rather handsome but tight-lipped, intense, and concentrating hard as he thinks: Sunset red… the color of blood.
Now the sun is touching the horizon, and that great, red orb is dipping slowly into the water, but I’m thinking more of my real and imaginary watchers. I’ve invented their moods and thoughts, of course, but were I to write their story how would it play out? How would these lives intersect? Hmm… maybe I’ll try and work it out. After all. it’s fun to play the Moody Blues!