What is Ambiance?
According the Webster dictionary, ambiance is “a feeling or mood associated with a particular place, person, or thing.” A candle lit on a small table with other low light situated around it. Already, your mind is coming up the scene, just based on that. You already have an idea if it is romantic or sad. It is a mood reflected in the scene that brings ideas to your reader’s mind. Want the reader to feel creeped out like the character on the pages are? Then the scene has to have the right ambiance. You have to set the mood. The feelings pulled from your reader comes from the scene you paint with the right ambiance.
Ambiance for Creating the Story
When you write a story, you have to have the right ambiance around you. Okay, this might not be true with every writer, but many will attest to that. If you want to write a peaceful scene, you might want to be in a peaceful setting. Typically, how you are feeling is conveyed through what you are writing. Think about it. If you are angry, can you really sit down and write a calm and loving scene? No! You want to rip someone’s heart out and tell someone off. Your feelings in that moment are what will be conveyed in your writing. Doesn’t it make sense then that the ambiance around you can also affect what words come from you?
You need a hectic scene with lots of people. Go to the mall or the airport. Any place bustling with activity will work. Sit down. Don’t open your laptop or any device. Just sit there. Maybe grab a cup of coffee or bottle of water. Absorb the scene. Let the activity consume you. Let the chaos join you. Listen to conversations and watch how people act. If this is the scene for your book, the ambiance is set. You can almost write what you are experiencing.
Do you need a romantic scene? Create one. Set up a romantic area in your home or anywhere else you need it. Put candles where they need to be. Even if the other half is just reading a book, create the scene where you feel cozy and romantic. Then you can write exactly what you are feeling.
See how the ambiance is important to the how you write. Even how your room is decorated can affect the ambiance and product of your writing. Medical research has proven that and actually implement this knowledge. Notice how most clinics and hospitals are decorated in similar styles? They lean toward an ambiance of comfort and relaxation. Many have extended this basis to say that certain colors actually stimulate activity. As Webmd points out, this is not scientifically proven, but who’s to say it doesn’t really work? Maybe you get hungrier with red in the décor or you prefer blue. Then decorate your dining room in the color that you feel does that for you. Do you relax with the typical cool colors of blue and green around you or do are you the rebellious one that prefers bright colors to relax in? Then paint your bedroom in such a way. It has been said that green is the best for creative productivity. Maybe where you write needs to be in green. Create the ambiance that works best for you.
I will segue for a moment to the concept of Feng Shui as someone is reading this and thinking of it. This is the Oriental concept of arranging a room to improve productivity. To some, it allows energy to flow. To others, it gives the right ambiance. One of the basic fundamentals of these practice, or theory, is to declutter the area you are working in. Clutter does mess up the mind and prevents your muse from the productivity it needs, unless of course the scene you are writing is clutter which means temporarily forget what I just said. Wait until that scene is written.
Ambiance Within the Story
All of this translates to the ambiance within the story. It’s also true that you can’t always create the ambiance outside the story to match the inside, but you can give a try to see what you can do.
Now, all that being said which is a lot, let’s look at how ambiance can be expanded within the story and really suck the reader in. Remember that your reader is not there with you when you write. You want them to be in the scene they are reading no matter where they are or what is happening in their life. That means a romantic scene needs to have them feeling romantic, and a suspenseful scene needs to have them on the edge of their seat even if they are sitting next to a roaring, peaceful fire. It all comes down to the words you are using.
Let’s say you have a scene where the bad guy, antagonist, is approaching the good guy, protagonist. This is an important part of the story.The mood has to be just right for the reader to feel everything you want them to. You want them to see what you see.
Let’s create the scene — You want me to see, as the reader, a condescending man approaching one that is both afraid and determined. It is a scene where the reader needs to hold his breath, wondering what will happen next.
How do you create the ambiance for the story?
Start off with what the room looks like. It is just as important for the scene to be right as it is for the characters to be developed and the dialogue realistically written. There are some standard ambiance signs for certain types of scenes most authors use:
What creeps you out? What has you looking over your shoulder waiting on the knife wielding shadow to appear? Here are few that might fall into that answer: fog, silence, strange noises, dust, cobwebs, darkness, shadows, things out of place.
Have you ever found yourself in a real life scene that has you waiting on something demonic to jump out of nowhere? See that dark alley and think of the sinister character that lurks there? The scene has the story ready to unfold.
Think of what gets you into a romantic mood. Soft lighting? Colors? Scents? How about sweet roses? Ambiance for these scenes tend to be soft and very feminine.
Much of what makes a creepy scene can also be used in suspenseful scenes. Shadows are very good for such scenes. Use whatever makes you anticipate something because that is what suspense is. The reader has to be anticipating something happening. They just aren’t sure exactly what or who or when.
There is no strict formula for the ambiance. If you do want the room to convey suspense, add shadows. Describe a cobweb here and there or the sound of a rodent scurrying about. What would put you on edge just by being in a room without the antagonist being there? Set it up for the reader the same way.
Then there are times when the scene is more ironic than supportive.
To be honest, the room itself the two characters are in does not have to be full of fog or shadows to lend suspense though many writers find that helpful. If this is happening in a bright, sunny park, the ambiance then has to come from the characters themselves. The mood has to radiate from them.
With the characters, you want to focus on movement and emotion. Whose viewpoint are you telling the story through? If it is the protagonist, describe how the heart rate increases, the palms begin to sweat, the hair on the back of their neck stands up. Even if he is in that sunny park, suspense will begin to set in with the reader. Add the antagonist with more than a jump onto a picnic table. Have him leap or pounce. The look can be a snarl instead of just condescending. Use the words to paint the suspense for the reader. The ambiance has to be created by the words you use. Give the reader the emotion they need to feel.
Creating the right ambiance doesn’t just come naturally. Sometimes you have to search for it. But there are many resources to help you.
You’d be surprised how well watching movies can help you create the right ambiance. Pick a scene in a movie. What is the mood of it? How is portrayed? Now put that into words. Describe the scene in detail.
Saying someone raised their hand is one thing, but there are so many other words to use instead of ‘raised.’ Look the word up in the thesaurus and see how many other ways you can the same thing but that conveys the right ambiance.
How does King portray suspense and horror? How does Steele portray passion and betrayal? Learn from the best how to create ambiance for your story.