One nearly perfect example of setting the mood can be seen in the movie “Somewhere in Time” with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. While the movie is dated, the technique is wonderful and what any writer of historical fiction needs to apply to their story from beginning to end. You cannot have your protagonist using anything, seeing or saying anything “out of time.” Many modern words and phrases were not used in earlier times.
Do your research. Immerse yourself put objects from the time where you see them, listen to the music, read magazines, and books printed then. Try to understand their world, their concerns, their daily lives.
After that word from our sponsor now, back to our story.
Outside flashes of lightning backlight the window’s signs. It steals a second of your attention, and you turn away from the men by the jukebox when you hear the waitress approaching. Your hand drops from the .38. You allow your suit coat to cover it as you look up, smile, and say, “Don’t I know you?”
She places your glass of beer, with a two-inch foam head on a cardboard Reingold coaster, a glass bowl filled with peanuts on the center of the table before answering. “You know that’s a pretty weak line.”
You smile and nod. “You must hear it a dozen times a night.” The beer tastes just right, nice, and cold as it slides down your throat.
“Not from a guy like you.” Her smile seems to warm as she examines your face. She nods slowly. “Yeah, I think so.”
Now you’re wondering what she is agreeing to, so wait to give her a chance to tell you.
“I think we went to school together, but then you disappeared right?”
You point at the empty chair. “Why don’t you sit for a second or two if the boss will let you.”
She looks over at the bar, and then shrugs, sits and reaches for a peanut, cracks the shell using both hands.
“What happened to you back then?” she asks without looking up.
“Dropped out to enlist, fighting seemed more important to me.”
“You look like you made it through okay.” She leaves the cracked peanut shell in the bowl, lifts a second one.
“I got lucky.” You wish you had not started talking about the war.
The sound of a chair scrapping the floor from across the room seems louder than the piano as the player begins “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.” One of the women standing near the piano starts singing with a million dollar voice.
A quick glance at the two men you hoped to avoid shows you one walking in your direction. He doesn’t act as if he sees you, passes by heading to the restrooms.
The waitress, you see when you turn back to her, looks confused as if your sudden lack of interest causes her concern.
What is her name?
“Sorry,” you tell her. “I’m too easily distracted tonight, been a tough day.”
“What do you do these days?” She sounds like she thinks your answer might be important to her.
“I’m a private cop,” you start to explain and stop abruptly when you feel the barrel of a gun pressed hard into the middle of your back.
The waitress’s eyes widen. She looks over your head and nods as if she received a silent message. “Stop by again next time you’re in our neighborhood.” She leaves before you can respond.
“Let’s go pal,” the guy behind you speaks close to your ear. His beer and cigar breath, combs you neck. “We need to speak with you outside.”
To be continued
Copyright 2018 Gabriel FW Koch All Rights Reserved