Sunday, September 17, 2017

Setting the Mood

Years ago I discovered my own character trait. 

I cannot work in silence. 

Chances are it developed over the years, perhaps in rebellion to the nuns in Catholic school that ‘strongly encouraged’ us to remain quiet unless we were called up. Like that’s going to happen!

So when it comes to writing, I’ll turn on the stereo and crank up the music. Different genres of music can help me set the mood for whatever it is I’m working on. If there is a scene with a lot of action, something slow and gentle isn’t going to cut it. That works better for more descriptive, narrative passages. For action, it’s gotta be rock. Something that moves quickly. Think Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, ZZ Top, George Thorogood, Robert Palmer, Chuck Berry. 

 Today I settled down to work on a scene for the sequel to “Why 319?”. What I had in mind was a little romantic activity between Chene and Simone, the young woman he met during the hunt for the serial killer. Often I’ll dial up something appropriate to help set the mood, anything from Sinatra, Motown or even a little jazz. At times I’ll even include the tune in my background as part of the scene itself.

When I cued up Pandora, the first selection that played was the great Marvin Gaye classic, “Let’s Get it On”.  That was just what I needed.

Here’s an excerpt from “Devious” that’s a perfect example of music setting the mood. In this scene, Jamie and Malone have recently started dating. She’s getting ready for him to stop by after work.

One night, last week, Malone had let slip that he had a soft spot for pink. I’d been waiting for an opportunity to see just how much of a softy he was. So in addition to my nails, I dug out some appropriate sleepwear. I don’t have a huge supply of slinky negligees. With the colder weather, I usually wear flannel pajamas. Not exactly the wardrobe of choice to spark romantic interest.  But I knew there was an item that would fit the bill tonight.

In the bottom of the drawer was just what I was looking for. Probably the most money I’ve ever spent on myself for something I’d only dreamed of wearing before. Actually, I’ve worn it twice, but never when I was expecting a visitor. It’s pure silk, in a very soft shade of pink, with thin spaghetti straps at the shoulders. It hugs my meager curves very nicely and stops about mid-thigh. It dips very low in the back, so if I’m feeling extremely naughty, I can always wear it backwards.  The gown comes with a matching wrap, the same shade of pink with a little black trim along the collar and the cuffs. The wrap drapes to my ankles. 

I wanted to get Malone’s attention from the moment he walked in the door. With that in mind, I searched the closet for a particular pair of shoes. They were black, with very high heels and open toes. I slipped them on and posed before the mirror. I sure hoped Malone had been taking his vitamins.

He was due any time now. I wanted no doubt in his mind what this evening had in store. The stereo was ready with a variety of discs, some soft sultry ballads by Diana Krall, James Taylor and light jazz instrumentals. There were candles lit, both in the living room and the bedroom.  I touched up my makeup, just lipstick and a little bit of blush. A quick spray of perfume and I was ready.

I was heading for the windows to see if I could spot his car, when the door opened. Malone stood there for a moment, not moving. I couldn’t see his eyes clearly. He was in that shadowy area, just inside the door and all the candles were behind me.  My heart did a little stutter. Was I coming on too strong?

“Hey, Jamie.” His voice was a hoarse whisper.

“Hey, Malone.”  I wanted to pose for him in some seductive way, but I was frozen in place, halfway between my bedroom and the sofa.

He just stood there, staring at me. His head moved slowly. I could feel his eyes tracing their way down my body. A chill ran up my spine, but I still couldn’t move. Then I heard a clicking noise and realized he had managed to close and lock the door behind him. At last he moved.

“You are an incredibly beautiful woman.”

I blushed and lowered my eyes. “It’s just the gown.”

“Don’t do that.” His voice had taken on a thick, husky quality.

“Do what?”

“Downplay the compliment.” Malone reached out his right hand and took my left. Then he turned me and we started dancing slowly, moving in perfect sync to the music. I think it was Krall singing “The Way You Look Tonight”. “Just smile sweetly, say, ‘thank you’ and accept the fact that I believe you are an incredibly beautiful woman.”

I was having trouble finding my voice. “Thank you, kind sir.”

He twirled me around the apartment. It amazed me how well we moved together. With the heels, I was almost eye level with Malone. His right hand was now inside the wrap, resting lightly on my bare back just above the edge of the gown. “Do you have any idea how incredibly sexy this is? To come in that door and find you like this?”

“Do you have any idea how sexy you make me feel, Malone?”

He stopped moving at that moment and dipped me, just as the song ended. “I’ve never had that effect on any woman before. At least, not to my knowledge.”


“Yes, Jamie?”

“Are you going to kiss me?”

That killer smile crossed his face. “I thought you’d never ask.”

***In case you're interested, here's a duet by Krall and Tony Bennett of the song mentioned in the excerpt. ***

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