Capturing atmosphere in a painting is a pretty big deal. Creating a sense of distance and open air on a two dimensional platform is often a goal, especially in landscapes.
While sitting under the deck gazebo today, analyzing how the real deal colors interact to inform me about atmosphere and space, it got me thinking about atmosphere in writing. How does the written word inform the reader about atmosphere? Color is less abstract than the written word when you're trying to transmit a sense of real place to someone outside yourself. At least with color you can create a visual space that guides the imagination pretty reliably.
The written word does have advantages, though. Yes, you can make a scratch and sniff painting, but it loses something in the process. If you do that you're getting too cute with the medium, and it loses meaning. With writing you can play with all the senses, including non-physical ones. Naturally, an advantage like that adds complexity, which adds more dimensions in which you can really foul up things.
So that's what I was thinking about today. It doesn't really go anywhere, except to this: when I write next, maybe I can reach a little deeper by trying to analyze how things interact in the scene to make it special. What stands out? Maybe this time I'll skip the furniture when I describe a room. Maybe what's really important is the scent, or the lighting, or the interaction between the two. Maybe it's a detail, something odd, like a lamp that doesn't fit the decor. What sets the mood?
What is the atmosphere, and what are the most important elements that interact to create that sense of space?