Growing Readership By “Lighting Up Your Writing”

CasablancaIn another life, nearly 20 years ago, I was fortunate to attend a sensational seminar, the famous Robert McKee 3 day “STORY BOOTCAMP”. 

In fact, sensational is an understatement.  My stand-out memory is McKee, wreathed in cigarette smoke, leaping about and ranting about how crucial it is to employ the power of ALL the human senses in writing, whether in movies or literature.

Fragrance, sound, touch, pain… the tang of salt air, roaring gales, the burning heat of fire, the chill of frost on window panes and so on.

But his most vivid example was from the 1942 movie “Casablanca”.

Casablanca Poster

Basically a group of refugees were trapped there, waiting to escape by plane.  It was almost a prison in a way, so the director cast powerful, subliminal “prison bars” lighting in almost every scene to enhance the claustrophobic sensation of imprisonment.  

Look closely:  Shadows of prison window bars across actors Paul Henreid and Ingrid Bergman can be seen in the screen shot above.

The McKee magic came rushing back to me this week when I was offered a guest post by author Claudette Young.  She has explored this very same subject, the power of lighting in our work.

The article is such a gift, I could hardly wait to publish it.


Over to Claudette…

Claudette Young

Claudette Young has written about craft for Wordsmith Studio and other venues, and has been through the ‘author mill’.  Based on her experiences she’s offered to share her discoveries about the sensory power of lighting up your writing


“Anyone can write a story, but not everyone illuminates with their words. And learning to emphasize without red flags, spotlights, or extraneous punctuation is a skill worth the effort.

Tell you what…  close your eyes and visualize the room you occupy.

Where is the light coming from? A lamp? A window? A door with glass inserts? Ask yourself how you would begin a story with the scene behind your eyelids.

Effective writing uses lighting elements within the storyline as much or more than any other descriptive. A story arc always has a setting and characters. A setting can also act as one of the primary characters. One of its lesser considered unique physical traits is lighting, and the writer is also the lighting director.

HawaiiThink about these classics:

Michener’s “Hawaii” or Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” Margaret Mitchell used master strokes in “Gone with the Wind.”

The trick of illuminating writing is to accentuate the setting’s or character’s features. Any character can switch on a lamp to light a room. It’s the writer who doesn’t always use a “written” switch for the lamp who garners great writing credit scores.

I’ll bet you’ve seen some of the best examples around.

Light Informs the Mind

TV and movies require the criticality of lighting. One of the elemental differences between the three CSI series begins in the first instant of viewing. Each of the franchise’s series has specific lighting.

1. CSI Las Vegas: subdued lighting in lab scenes to highlight instruments and individual work stations. The mood—a cave-like space hidden from view or protected from the searing desert sun.

Interior crime scenes: done with a flashlight to add a more sinister element or suspense. Exterior, daytime scenes: muted, almost dusty, light inherent to the desert during early morning or late afternoon. Exterior night scenes: reflect glittering lights of locale.


2. CSI Miami: created much different mood and viewer expectation. Lighting: vibrant and harsh–primary colors in blatant HD. Most episodes filmed with sun-filled exterior scenes.

Interior labs explode with light from expansive windows and slick surfaces that reflect light, and Horatio Cain goes nowhere without his sunglasses (the viewer might wonder what he’s really hiding behind those Foster Grants.)

Filming technique used exaggerates natural light to create visual clarity not found in the other two series.  Focus accentuates youth and physical beauty along with modern architecture, glistening in the sunshine.


3. CSI NY: viewer taken into the cluttered, gritty streets of New York City—light was flatter, less defined, dimmer. Skyscrapers kept sunlight at bay. Because of setting, exterior shots appeared depressing.

The labs: unique for both the building’s architecture type and lighting, though the equipment flaunted high-tech with its own special lighting. The setting screams New York City as the stereotype here. The viewer would never have to hear the name to know the place.

New York 400

Light in Literature

Let’s face it. The old standard, “It was a dark and stormy night,” became cliché because it was an excellent beginning line. It cued the reader with lighting.

In Cold Blood - Capote

Horror movies mastered lighting to help show the story, create the mood, and modulate suspense. After the opening two minutes of a film, lighting had already left its message and set the reader on a predetermined emotional course.

The same power holds true for all writers. Truman Capote introduced creative non-fiction to the mass market with his thriller “In Cold Blood” by working the scenes as any good lighting director would do. It’s a matter of words and their use.

When you experience a scene behind your eyelids, sensations and impressions reveal the story. It automatically shows rather than tells. Stop long enough to think about the last riveting daydream you had.

Good lighting allows cues for the reader about shifting characters, setting and much more

Here’s an example of a tiny use of lighting that brings mood into play that foreshadows and hints at backstory. In Mercedes Lackey’s book, “Sacred Ground” she needs to establish a new primary character a couple of chapters into the book without using an info dump.

“He was posed right under one of the porch lights, and she couldn’t help but make mental comparisons with the guy she used to know. The guy she used to know wouldn’t have posed like that, making a macho body-language statement, clearly blocking her way …”

Lackey gives the reader an immediate chance to relate and visualize the scene. She doesn’t have to say that his arms are crossed. She doesn’t have to explain why he’s behaving as he is—at least not until later. The reader knows now that there’s history between the two characters and that it didn’t end pleasantly. The “porch light” haloes this character as important in the future and gives the reader a taste of his personality. It served its purpose well.

One of my favorite authors is the high fantasy writer, David Eddings.

The Seeress Of Kell

Eddings uses large numbers of characters and settings and is a master of intricate story lines. Here is an excerpt from one of his books in series, “The Seeress of Kell.”

“The office in Yar Nadrak of Silk and Yarblek’s far-flung commercial empire was in a loft over a cavernous warehouse filled with bales of furs and deep-piled Mallorean carpets. The factor was a squinty-eyed Nadrak named Zelmit, who was probably almost as untrustworthy as he looked…”

Here the reader learns about three people and more in the space of two sentences.

1. Silk and Yarblek are rich, commercial traders
2. Zelmit works for them and has squinty eyes and looks untrustworthy.
3. The office is in a loft over a huge warehouse
4. The warehouse (presumably theirs) is filled with furs and carpets
5. The lighting conditions surrounding the characters

What is lighting like in a crowded warehouse in high fantasy? One can assume that it’s dark or dim at best. The genre connotes medieval conditions. That fact makes it logical to assume few, if any, windows in the office space. Perhaps Zelmit is “squinty-eyed” due to the lighting, perhaps not.

All of the lighting in this scene is inferred, yet the reader fills in the blanks and quickly moves on with an internal image in mind.

Bringing Things to Light

Of course, inference can do much of the writer’s work without adding word count. In fact, if the writer uses strong, concrete nouns and verbs, little extraneous description is necessary. Here are some examples of illumination without padding.

1. “Gillian’s surfer good looks drew every eye. Sunrays escaped late afternoon clouds to spotlight her while she selected a champagne flute from a passing waiter. Peacock blue brocade suited her well.”

2. “Alaska enjoyed a good winter.  Snow rose to meet the roof on the west side.  Iditarod dogs and their owners would arrive in half an hour.  He glanced across the runway.  Mary had readied the welcome party for the first load of participants.  He hoped the new racers would appreciate all the work she’d done to make them feel warm and at home.  He’d readied the fireplaces.  She’d worried with candles.  Now, if they could keep the runway’s flame pots burning until the plane landed, everyone would sleep well tonight.”

Both of these paragraphs use light in different ways. The first informs the reader that the scene is happening either in late afternoon or at twilight.

The inferred gathering involves champagne indicating a party, probably formal. If Gillian is wearing brocade, it’s possibly chilly in temperature. Brocade is a heavier fabric in the main. Also, Gillian is physically fit with a deep tan since her looks are equated with a surfer.

AlaskaThe second paragraph is set during an Alaskan winter. Heavy snow blankets the area. It’s dark all winter in that state. They are using fireplaces (logical) and candles (also logical,) which means they aren’t using a generator. The flame pots for the runway mean it’s a small private strip.

The feel of the place and the characters comes through to the reader.

Lasting Impressions

The writer needs to be his own lighting director.

The movie he brings to light is contained between book covers and requires the best illumination possible. Regardless of storyline, characters, or settings the writer who can sprinkle sparkles and shimmers throughout will leave an impression and hold the reader’s attention.

On the story’s last page, the reader isn’t thinking of which writing devices were used. Writers can use blatant or subtle clues spun from bright and dark, dappled and ethereal.


The impression left behind is one about the writer as much as the story.  That light-weaving ability will foster loyalty, and testimonials that gather more avid readers.

And that is what the writer wants… above all.

Guest article by Claudette Young.

Claudette YoungClaudette has written many articles, op-ed, travel, and children’s fiction for Yahoo News, fiction for both online and print magazines, and poetry for online magazines and print anthologies.

The first booklet in her “How-To Slay a Writer’s Dragon” series has been released on Kindle.

Which of these “lighting” ideas resonate with you most? Do you use a range of human senses in your work?  Please do leave a comment.

Notice:  This article is  copyrighted material.  © Copyright Bestseller Labs.  Reproduction of brief snippets of this article with a link to this site are permitted, but it may not be reproduced in full anywhere without the written permission of Jonathan Gunson at

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  • June 5, 2014 at 10:43am

    What an interesting way to talk about lighting. It’s so important in visual art but it feels easy to forget in literature. I’ll certainly never watch CSI in the same way again!

    I am reminded of Susan Cooper’s “The Dark is Rising” (which I re-read yesterday), which make superb use of both changing weather and light during the day and night to create a sense of threat to the young protagonist and also to highlight the shifts between the every-day and the magical (the magic first arrives with the snow, and Will’s fear is connected with the darkness).

    A bit like for me with CSI, I guess it’s one of those things you don’t directly notice but which has a big impact on your experience as a reader. I’ll look out more for use of light in the future. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 5, 2014 at 10:55am

      Re “The Dark is Rising”… Good timing. I read it for the very first time last month! And yes, agree – lighting as you describe saturates the story.
      ~ Jonathan (“Merriman Lyon” in another life.)

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 4:59pm

      Keith, I’m so glad to have shown something that has impact on the sensibilities and something that makes the reader think of their own experiences. Thank you for sharing your impression of this piece.

  • June 5, 2014 at 11:48am

    Excellent article. I have used this technique in my books, but this encourages me to illuminate my work with more visual displays.

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:01pm

      Thanks so much, Kathleen. Sometimes we forget that subtle cues impact as much or more than blatant ones. I’m glad you enjoyed my take on it.

  • June 5, 2014 at 11:55am

    This “enlightening” article really made me rethink setting. Thanks so much.

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:02pm

      You’re welcome, Sandy. Glad to help. Lord knows I need reminders often. Thank you for reading the article. It pleases me to know you enjoyed it.

  • Amy Morse says:
    June 5, 2014 at 11:55am

    Thanks Claudette, this is great. I love the references to CSI – I always noticed the lighting and how it differentiated the moods of the three locations and distinguished them from each other and it’s a brilliant example. I’m in the process of editing my latest book #SolomonsSecrets and plan to use your tips to beef up some of my scenes. Thanks again

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:05pm

      Glad to know I’m not the only one who noticed the disparity between CSI series, Amy. Light has always been especially important to me. Good luck with the editing. I wonder it how you intend to beef things up amounts to “pumping light”? :) Sorry, couldn’t resist. Happy writing.

  • June 5, 2014 at 11:58am

    I found this article most interesting. I began my professional life as a lighting designer having studied under some of the best in the stage and film industry at the time. Yet, when I started writing novels nearly forty years later, I opened the first book with a broad sweep of the horizon and the lighting effect that was created by the sun. Then, I proceeded to forget about lighting for the rest of the story. Oops! Sometimes the things that are closest to us tend to be forgotten by us. Thank you for reminding me of an obvious talent that I need to use to “brighten up” my stories.

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:08pm

      Herb, you hit a very bit nail with your comment. We do tend to ignore or forget those things we know so well in the frenzy of the writing process. It’s handy when we get reminded. I’m always happy to give a nudge about something I’ve discovered for myself. Thank you for this comment. It let’s me know I’m not the only one who overlooks something thought obvious to all.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 6, 2014 at 2:43am

      Re Being a LIGHTING designer. You’re not by any chance related to movie genius Mac Sennett?
      ~ Jonathan

  • Peter Merrington says:
    June 5, 2014 at 12:03pm

    I like this. E.M. Forster made it plain to all of us about the importance of perspective, point of view, in fiction. Those are verbal or narrative devices, but they are also a set of metaphors – about seeing, vision, looking. We can learn a lot from ‘visual literacy’ – setting up atmosphere, place, space, the observer and the observed; and the play of light and dark (chiaroscuro) is well worth developing. Thank you.

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:11pm

      You’re welcome certainly, Peter. I’m happy you found it worthwhile/instructive. Thank you. Sometimes we forget just how much real work and thought goes into the process.

  • June 5, 2014 at 12:12pm

    Your comments bring to mind my English classes in which my teacher taught us about the use of imagery. “Wuthering Heights” is filled with light and dark imagery, for example. (Think of Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays.) Much of the great novels have light and dark imagery. Your likening writing for a book to making a movie is really apt because writers have to evoke the scene in readers’ minds. In a sense, you are like a production designer. Movies have a palettes; what is the palette for your book? That would be a good question to ask. I’m co-writing a nonfiction book right now (The Purpose Is Profit), but you’ve made me realize that as we tell the story of the entrepreneur’s successes and failures that we could make the scenes come to more life with light descriptions. Thank you!

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:15pm

      Well say, Wyn. Thank you. We do take those mental images (our personal movie screens) and place them onto the page. It’s the translation of those scenes which is the troublesome part. The old adage of “the proof is in the translation” really says a lot in this case. Creative non-fiction, which is what you’re proposing with your book, is using more and more fiction-writing devices today. This would certainly work well for that application. Good luck.

  • June 5, 2014 at 12:13pm

    What an interesting study of light, Claudette! I have watched Casablanca more than once and never picked up the subliminal lighting but as soon as you pointed it out I had an “Of course!” moment. And the way you have tied film and television to writing works because you’ve illuminated words with more visual media.
    Just now I’m doing revisions on the second book of my Loyalist series and made a note to my self to check my use of lighting when introducing characters or pivotal scenes. Thank you for an excellent article!
    Elaine Cougler

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:20pm

      Elaine–so good to see you. And thank you. I’m so happy to have “shown” you the effect of writing with light. You know, the funny thing is that we do it all the time when we speak. When we tell a story to our friends around the table, we constantly fill spaces with statements like “You know that funny yellowish stain that washes over the sky just before the big storm hits,” or “I swear, tiny sparkles floated in the air, like lightning bugs or fairies, against the dark of the trees.” Okay, so not everyone talks like that. But storytellers do when they’re in full-swing, and that’s why they do well with audiences.

      Good luck with the revisions. May they shine!

  • June 5, 2014 at 12:21pm

    Thanks Jonathan and Claudette. I am currently editing my first-to-be-released novel for exactly this kind of thing, and this article helps me clarify how I want to go about it. I’ve always been very aware of setting as another “character” and “conflict”. Sometimes it helps to see some good examples to emulate, though.

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:23pm

      Aw, Susie, thank you. Good luck with the revision. It’s so hard to keep in mind everything you need to watch for during the process. So glad that I’ve given you something that may help. Happy writing.

  • Petula says:
    June 5, 2014 at 12:35pm

    This is probably the best post I have read on a writing technique. Even though it sant lengthy while reading I couldn’t perceive it’s length- I SAS caught up in the lighting.

    I believe this will help me a great deal. I tend to add lighting subconsciously and can only imagine if I used it with intent what the turnout would be. Excellent, thank you

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:27pm

      Thank you so much, Petula. You’re right, it was long. I admit it, but I couldn’t seem to find anything more to cut during my editing process. I whittled nearly 500 words from it before handing it over to Jonathan and told him to see if he could find anything more to cut. He couldn’t either. There you have it. The blinding truth. :)

      I’m happy, though, that this piece helped you and gave you value for your time. That’s my pay-off. Thanks again.

  • June 5, 2014 at 12:56pm

    I totally agree. Lighting is so important whether in pictures or in words. It raises a flat landscape into a feature-full panorama that intrigues, captivates and entrances, depending on the mood of the “light”.
    Excellent post, Jonathan.

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:28pm

      Glad you enjoyed it, Richard. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  • Kristi says:
    June 5, 2014 at 1:02pm

    Thank you for this tremendous example and reminder to use lighting in our stories. Like Herb I opened my book using lighting and forgot about it the rest of the story. Luckily I can rework that still. Thank you!

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:30pm

      Glad to bring a reminder, Kristi. Happy writing with that revision. Thank you for stopping in, reading, and taking the time to comment.

  • June 5, 2014 at 1:21pm

    Hi Claudette,

    What a lovely surprise in my in-box to read your name as guest author here today. It’s been quite some time since we connected, hope you are well!

    Your article is filled with examples to reference to again and again. I specifically liked the ones from the CSI shows and have different lighting can be. Lighting/scene as a character is essential to an amazing story.

    Donna McDine

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:33pm

      Donna! You’re right. I haven’t talked to you in ages. I’m well, thank you, and hope all is the same with you.

      I’m glad you liked the article and found it worthwhile. You would know how important it is and how often overlooked. Thank you so much for commenting, and for reminding me to connect more often with those I’ve not heard from in a while. Be well, my friend.

      • June 20, 2014 at 5:32pm

        Awww, you are so sweet. It’s always terrific to catch up. Have a great weekend!

  • CF Yetmen says:
    June 5, 2014 at 1:27pm

    Excellent article, thank you! One of my favorite things to do is to watch movies (especially classic black and whites) with the sound off. The lighting, especially, tells you a lot about the story and the characters, as do camera positions and framing.

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:34pm

      Thank you, CF. I always loved the B&W movies, too. They said as much with light as they did with words–sometimes more.

  • June 5, 2014 at 1:56pm

    Claudette, thanks for putting into words what I am trying to convey. For my books on grief and healing, I try to draw upon the soul light within the reader to come forth and assimilate my messages of peace and hope.

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:37pm

      Thank you, Susanne. The grief process is always difficult for both the one suffering and the one assisting in the process. Finding the light seems lost in the gloom of the event and its aftermath. We tend to forget that the one who leaves has left behind some of their soul’s light to help keep us from the gloom, and that a soul’s light never diminishes.

      I’m glad that my words helped you in your mission. Good luck and happy writing.

  • June 5, 2014 at 2:26pm

    This is a fantastic aticle addressing the “show don’t tell” dilemma writers face time and time again. Although I try to use all the senses throughout my stories, this is a practice I continue to struggle with. It sometimes doesn’t occur until the 2-3 draft of a new manuscript, when I’m better able to “stand back” and take another look at the scenes. Well done Jonathan and many thanks Claudette!

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:42pm

      You’re so welcome, Debbie. Distance is sometimes the only thing that can give us accurate perspective on something we’ve written. Then again, there are times when we don’t have the luxury of distance. We must get in all in there the first/second time through because of deadlines. It’s the deliberate attention to the issue that takes the stamina and determination.

      And believe me, you’re not alone in struggling with it. Sometimes I want a BIG sign above my desk that proclaims “DON’T FORGET THE LITTLE STUFF.” In face, I think I’m going to make that sign for myself this week. :)

      I’m glad you came by, Debbie, and shared your comment. Thank you.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 6, 2014 at 2:41am

      “…show don’t tell…” Yep.
      ~ Jonathan

  • June 5, 2014 at 2:35pm

    Wow. I never thought about lightning being important, which seems silly, doesn’t it? I mean, I make sure to enfold something that speaks to all the other senses in my scenes, but I guess because a book isn’t as visual as a film or a TV show, I never really thought about describing the light beyond it being sunny or cloudy. Thank you so much, Claudette and Johnathan, for giving me another great tool to bring my books even more to life!

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:48pm

      Happy to help, Fiona. Thank you. Helping each other is sometimes our greatest reward and I’ve been well rewarded today with all these wonderful comments. When you spoke of books not being a visual medium, I smile. I’m one of those lucky people who hear words in pictures. Every word, for me, has an image or part of an image attached to it. The effect may be subtle, but it’s there. It took a long while for me to understand what the subtlety really was–lighting. For those who don’t process words as I do, it’s difficult to fathom the richness that’s involved. And for me, it’s even harder to enunciate.

  • June 5, 2014 at 3:42pm

    Just yesterday I was struggling with the patch of light an open door threw onto a porch at night. Claudette’s article helped me bring my writing goal to a conscious level and cemented the need for a lighting director in all my writing. Thanks.

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:50pm

      Talk about timing, Marjorie. Thanks so much. I’m glad to have helped. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how serendipity works sometimes? Happy writing. Pesky porch light problem solved. Love it.

  • June 5, 2014 at 3:59pm

    Great article, Claudette and Jonathan.
    Can’t resist copying and pasting an excerpt from a piece I wrote yesterday:

    At two o’clock in the morning the gang had disabled the power supply to the farmhouse. The security lights went dead as a result and the farm became shrouded in darkness. The gang members had flashlights, however, and three of them broke in through a window. A fourth one, who’d earlier cut off the power supply, kept watch near the gang’s getaway car.

    How’s that for synchronicity?

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:54pm

      John, that’s lighting in a big way. :) You’re right, though. Synchronicity. Glad you liked the article and that it put the spotlight on your work. Couldn’t resist it. I tried, but no dice. :)

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 5, 2014 at 11:05pm

      Good timing, and illuminating example.
      ~ Jonathan

  • June 5, 2014 at 4:02pm

    Thanks Claudette for the great examples of the three CSI’s and light. Your article inspired me. I realize I use light as a way to set a scene, to highlight a character’s emotion just like I use the weather. But after your article I’ll think about it in a different, more developed way. Another TV series that I thought used light beautifully is Breaking Bad. Thanks again.

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 5:59pm

      Claudia, if you’re already using lighting to that extent, kudos for you, and I’m glad to have given you even more reason to look at that element. Thank you.

      Most of the time, I think, we cruise by those reminders that should inform us. We don’t pay attention to how other mediums and their aspects can add to our own medium. When we stop to really look at one of those examples, though, a whole panorama of ideas and examples open up for us and broaden our creative abilities. We learn perspective from artists–and not just from painters. There’s perspective in sculpture as well, and in architecture. Certain elements are meant to be viewed from specific distances in order to show their “truths.” Wrting is no different. It’s the layers that count. Lighting is one of those layers.

  • June 5, 2014 at 4:38pm

    Great reminder to use lighting!! Thanks for the post :)

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 6:00pm

      Thanks, Janelle, for reading and commenting. I’m happy you enjoyed it.

  • June 5, 2014 at 5:25pm

    Great tip, the lighting is so important! I have long loved the way those film noir directors used lighting and the terrific atmosphere it produced. I’d love to see more movies today with such talented use of it, but most either go for the “darker is better!” or just regular lighting.
    I suppose black and white lends itself more to shadows, as a medium.

    Good points!

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 6:03pm

      Thanks, E. You know the one movie that exemplifies film noir techniques for me? “Blade Runner,” the original. In that movie, Lighting was the main character. It told more about that time, that place, those people, than any other I’ve ever seen. And it was in-your-face blatant. It had to be, because without it, there was no story really.

      I’m glad you can take something away from this article. Happy writing.

  • Claudette says:
    June 5, 2014 at 6:04pm

    And Jonathan, I want to thank you again, my friend, for allowing me to come and play in your pen for a day or so. I always have such a good time here with your playmates.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 5, 2014 at 10:17pm

      The authors here are a great community, and they’ve come to expect my posts to be largely about the marketing of books. So the opportunity to cover the creative side – if it comes into view – is more than welcome. Highly insightful post thank you.
      ~ Jonathan

  • June 5, 2014 at 6:04pm

    Great article! I can really use these tips in my current editing phase.

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 6:58pm

      Thanks, Tamara. Happy to help with any tips I can bring out.

  • June 5, 2014 at 6:52pm

    So enjoyed your article. And so appreciate the inclusion of subtleties of “senses” in writing, especially since movies and tv, of late, are filled with explosions, car chases, firearms, and unrealistic high drama.

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 6:58pm

      Thanks, Deanna. And you’re right. We’re bombarded each day with over-the-top visuals and sometimes it’s good, pleasing, and healthy just to sit back and watch how light can play on a scene to give it meaning and finesse.

      Glad you took away something you can use.

  • Mary Lou says:
    June 5, 2014 at 7:50pm

    Yes, interesting. When I reread my novel that is due for publication this fall, I will certainly check to see to what extent I have done this. If not, will look for how to incorporate more. Always good to be reminded or to learn something new to help make one’s writing shine. Light bulb moment!

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 9:55pm

      Thank you, Mary Lou. I’m glad you found a good use for the information. And I agree. Learning constantly is the best way to get your message out.

  • June 5, 2014 at 8:44pm

    Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunters series depends on light and darkness. Getting caught in the daylight can get you fried like a strip of bacon in a skillet. In this series because of what Dark-Hunters do, the lighting and time of day are heightened.
    It’s a great series!

    Also, my favorite fantasy author, Jim Butcher and the Dresen Files capture the use of light so well at times, the setting itself almost becomes a character.

    Wonderful article. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Tambra Nicole

    • Claudette says:
      June 5, 2014 at 9:58pm

      Thank you, and you’re welcome, Tambra. There are so many great writers of light; Elizabeth Moon, Raymond Feist, Nora Roberts, to mention a few.

  • June 5, 2014 at 10:18pm

    Great article, Claudette!
    Fascinating notes on lighting in Casablanca and the 3 CSIs. I’ve never CONSCIOUSLY noticed that. Interesting that you chose to use examples of more subdued lighting cues in literature.
    I’m always telling people, when I critique their work, to let me SEE the scene. Where are people standing, what are they doing while they talk, what does it all look like. We constantly need to be reconnected with the visual, otherwise we end up with the “talking heads” syndrome. You’ve really nailed it here. Well done!

    • Claudette says:
      June 6, 2014 at 2:14am

      Aw, Jane Ann, thank you so much. Yeah, I know what you mean. I struggle every day to make sure that I dot all the “i’s” and cross those “t’s” and still miss them. Thank God for my outstanding critique group , each of which jump on lapses like that. What would we do without our checkers?

      I’m so grateful that you enjoyed this piece. The readers here are fantastic. I always feel blessed to get to play here.

  • June 5, 2014 at 11:41pm

    Thanks, Jonathan and Claudette! Excellent advice to help writers write better scenes so readers can better picture those scenes.

    • Claudette says:
      June 6, 2014 at 2:15am

      Becky, thank you. I work hard to please. (Call it a fault of mine.) :)

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 6, 2014 at 2:39am

      Claudette always brings a touch of class.
      ~ Jonathan

      • Claudette says:
        June 6, 2014 at 8:09am

        And you, Jonathan, are a kind and accommodating mentor to many. — Claudette

  • June 6, 2014 at 12:15am

    Wonderful article. I’ve used lighting effects in my writing before, but I have to check to see how consistent I am. Engaging the senses is always a plus in writing, and light certainly plays an important part.

    • Claudette says:
      June 6, 2014 at 2:18am

      You’re right there, Bard. Making certain to use all of them can get tricky sometimes. It gets even harder when you work in flash fiction, which I love to do. That’s when the writer really gets an exercise in concrete nouns and verbs. But’s it so worth it. It’s the same with senses. And without light, everything sits in the dark, waiting for the end of the tunnel.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 6, 2014 at 2:38am

      Too modest Sir! If anyone is aware of this it would be you – judging by your Pinterest collection.
      ~ Jonathan

  • Vina Grey says:
    June 6, 2014 at 1:54am

    Claudette, what a great post. I absolutely love Lackey’s writing and I would live in Valdemar if I could; what makes it so rich for me is her description of that fantasy world – the light, the smells…..

    • Claudette says:
      June 6, 2014 at 2:21am

      I’m with you on that one about Valdermar, Vina. Misty keeps that world jumping and always grounded in the senses. I just haven’t decided if I would prefer the Herald life or that of the Hawkbrothers. I lean heavily toward Hawks, though. “Horses” are nice, but Hawks fly. 😀

      Glad you like the article, and thank you for your kind words.

  • June 6, 2014 at 3:48am

    Great discussion on light! Thank you for pointing out the “prison bars” imaging in Casablanca! What a perfect example! Again, great great post!

    • Claudette says:
      June 6, 2014 at 8:11am

      I’m thrilled that you’re enjoying the discussion, P.I. Thank Jonathan for the Casablanca pic and reference. He came up with it before I even had a rough draft finished. And it was perfect. He does know how to make a writer look good, doesn’t he? 😀

  • June 6, 2014 at 9:00am

    It seems obvious once you point it out. Using the wrong lighting or wrong colours can distract the reader from the real message. I shall certainly pay more attention in future. Thanks.

    • Claudette says:
      June 6, 2014 at 3:18pm

      Thanks and very true, John. It’s especially critical, at least I think so, when you’re writing about a specific location in the real world. Readers from that and surrounding areas will stick your head on a pike for giving them inaccurate weather or like conditions. Just ask anyone from the American Deep South. They can get very touchy about accuracy. A case in point–mid and late summer morning, just after dawn in Kentucky.

      Moist air fills the lungs, while a watery sun sends questing fingers through thick air to burn off heavy dew. Birdsong greets early risers with their salutation to the day and the world of streaking canary light and misty shadows. Grass scent permeates everything in this state known for its racers.

      Hmm … I may have to use that for my poetry today. Thanks, John, for inspiring me to that tangent. I can use it later. But you see what I mean. That is how central Kentucky is on a late summer morning, looking out over a thoroughbred farm, watching damp-coated yearlings frolic in the pasture. Someone who hasn’t experienced it would have to be careful of descriptions.

      Sorry, I didn’t mean to jump on that soapbox. It just popped out. I only meant that I would hesitate to write about a scene set in Australia or New Zealand, Africa or Denmark, for instance, without a huge amount of study first. I’d want to get it right.

  • Izette says:
    June 6, 2014 at 10:14am

    Thank you for lighting the imagination in such vivid explanation Claudette. Thanks Jonathan for sharing this rather lightning imagery from Claudette.

    • Claudette says:
      June 6, 2014 at 3:19pm

      Thank you, Izette. I was happy to write it and share. I’m glad you got so much from it.

  • SuzanneG says:
    June 6, 2014 at 3:45pm

    Thank you for this light on using the sense of sight in stories.

    I’ve been very aware of how lighting sets a mood and sense of place in television and movies. Now I intend to pay much more attention to how light informs and affects my stories.

    I can’t wait to check out your website, Claudette, to find more jewels of writing knowledge.

    • Claudette says:
      June 6, 2014 at 5:35pm

      Thanks so much, Suzanne. I hope I don’t bore you stiff over there. If you have something you’d like to see, though, don’t hesitate to request it. If I don’t know, I’ll say so, and find an answer for you or at least give it a good try. I’m in the process of revamping my author’s website, so things will change in the next month or so.

      Looking forward to seeing everyone there, if possible.

  • June 8, 2014 at 6:06am

    As always, Jonathan – a fascinating post. Claudette – I shall have another angle to consciously think about now – (I think I already did unconsciously.) Thank you Will put a link up on my blog – I’m sure others will also want to read this.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 8, 2014 at 8:20am

      Thank you. Blog links are always welcome.
      ~ Jonathan

    • Claudette says:
      June 9, 2014 at 12:45am

      Margaret, thank you so much. I’m glad you got something worthwhile from it. And a link would be appreciated. It never hurts to give others a heads-up on things, does it? Happy writing.

  • leo effi says:
    June 8, 2014 at 8:05am

    An excellent article indeed. I have never thought of lighting this way, you just made description easier for me thanks.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 9, 2014 at 12:06am

      Good to hear. There’s no question that heightened sensory aspects can set description alight.
      ~ Jonathan

    • Claudette says:
      June 9, 2014 at 12:46am

      Glad to help, Leo. It’s always exciting to find something new to add to one’s writing. Hope this works like superglue for you–sticking to each piece you write and making it shine. :)

  • June 8, 2014 at 8:24pm

    Thank you for this. Light is very important to me in “real life” and so is color. (Once my best friend called and after a couple of minutes wanted to know what was wrong. I hadn’t known that anything was wrong, but figured it out when I got off the phone–I was wearing a very drab outfit.) I’ve just published a children’s picture book (Honest, this isn’t a sneaky advertorial!) and was privileged to work with the artist on the colors. It took us a few back and forths before we were both happy with the color of the little girl’s dress. I still don’t know what it is–some kind of fusion, perhaps, between red, cranberry and ?). Anyway, I think the brightness of the colors she used really highlighted the cheeriness of the story. Maybe you’ll have an article on color?

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      June 9, 2014 at 12:02am

      We are from the same planet it would seem. Color is a key part of my work. I’ve written and illustrated many children’s books. They’re mostly out of print now – I plan to revamp them as iBooks! Here’s a little of my work
      ~ Jonathan

    • Claudette says:
      June 9, 2014 at 12:52am

      Margaret, I’m happy you could use these ideas. I know from experience the huge importance of light. And color is a whole different animal. Illustrators and artists, as Jonathan can tell you, depend on that one element to create mood as well as overall ambiance. Some of my other illustrator friends keep doing swatches to find new combos to create workable colors for assorted projects.

      Jonathan would be the one to talk about that aspect, I’m sure. Most of my color lives only on the page, I’m afraid. :)

  • June 9, 2014 at 7:13pm

    Excellent advice, Claudette. This has definitely got me inspired. Hitchcock was a master of lighting in his films, and movies are stories in motion. Of course we should be incorporating more light into the written word.Thank you, Jonathon, for sharing article with me.

    • Claudette says:
      June 10, 2014 at 3:51am

      So glad you enjoyed the article, Cairenn. Sometimes we overlook the most obvious things in our surroundings. We make sure to get in the details about how the china dresses the dining table, but we forget to light the candles. Or we have our characters walking through the forest at night and fail to do more than call it a dark night.

      What if the reason the forest felt even spookier was that if had rained earlier in the day, and the temperature had risen that night, creating ground fog that obscured each step the characters took, as it swirled around their legs in eddies of motion? That description creates far more atmosphere (literally) than “it was dark.” Add a sliver of moon peeking over the far hillside, and you have a real scene.

      Sorry, I had that image stuck in my head and had to get it out. Now I can go use it in a story I’m working on. Thanks for the push, Cairenn. :) Happy writing.

  • June 14, 2014 at 5:06pm

    thank you.

  • Denise Loughlin says:
    June 16, 2014 at 1:38pm

    What an illuminating post, Claudette! Your description of writer as “light-weaver” and director of readers’ mind movies is brilliant! Your examples from movies and books underscore your analogy which I find so helpful. Thanks so very much for another gem – and for sharing. Much appreciated!

  • June 16, 2014 at 2:51pm

    I know in my writing I have used lighting references, but not consciously emphasizing it. However, after reading your article, I’ll certainly add it to my bag of tricks. At my next writers’ group meeting, I will also bring it up for discussion to get feedback from others. It will be interesting to hear how many zero in on using lighting techniques in their writing. I love the examples used in your article, Claudette. Thank you for sharing a fascinating tip.

  • July 6, 2014 at 12:31pm

    Thanks for this awesome post. I will definitely take heed to your lighting advice in the sequel I am currently writing. This is a great article to share with my writer’s group. Thanks Jonathan and Claudette!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      July 6, 2014 at 10:23pm

      Thank you for sharing with your group.
      ~ Jonathan