You step from your apartment onto the main street of a little European town. It’s a narrow street with even narrower sidewalks. Building exteriors change in style and color with each adjoining structure. Shadows play on the asphalt. Doors, windows, and signs beckon you to explore.
Who lives behind the walls, behind the closed shutters, behind the curtained windows? You’d like to open a door, sit on an overstuffed sofa, peek in a cooking pot bubbling on a burner, poke in a closet. You want to glance through a photo album, chat with the occupant over a cup of tea or glass of wine.
The brightness of the day, the aromas from the cafe/bar, the sounds of people engaged in living make you feel happy. You want to climb the tower for a scenic view of the town. People greet each other. There’s a feeling of well-being.
But the mood changes when the photo fades to black and white. You think of something more sinister. A world war. People are not on the streets, afraid for their safety. Members of the underground plan an attack down in a cellar. A group of enemy soldiers of occupation can be heard approaching beyond the bend in the road, coming your way. A guard keeps watch in the tower.
Other scenarios? Perhaps a group of demonstrators will march through the streets in protest of an injustice or perhaps two con men meet in the corner of the bar, planning a caper.
Or have aliens been spotted, hovering overhead in a space craft, sending people indoors? It may be Armageddon. Or not. But until you know, you feel danger in the air.
In sepia the photo takes on age, a sense of yesterday. The world is more innocent. Life moves slower. A man’s word has value as does his handshake. Family stays close. Land, buildings, and businesses pass from generation to generation.
A bell rings in the tower announcing the hour. People dressed in clothing of the 1880’s conduct their lives. Transportation is horse-drawn or on foot. Illumination is by candle or oil lamp. There’s a feeling of nostalgia when you enter the scene.
A writer’s imagination is never on hold. And just as we can change the mood of a picture with iPhoto and the story it might tell, we can change the mood of a scene by the words we choose.
Our word selection can make a place friendly or dangerous. A street can be well lit or shadow ridden and eerie. A character can be kind, seedy, or tough. When we put our imaginations to work, we enable readers to form images in their heads and feel and care about a character. We enable readers to sense the mood. Their feelings are stirred.
Photo courtesy of Judy Lemche. Fauglia, Italy