There’s Moonlight … When??
It happened again last night.
I’m sitting on the couch, playing Spider Solitaire and watching a perfectly good movie. The characters are settling into their bedrolls after the evening meal on the trail drive, but first they must notice the moon and discuss it. Sure, it looks pretty, a nice, bright crescent on the horizon. It’s worth looking at. Only problem is, the director has shot a fourth quarter moon, which rises in the east just before sunrise. A fourth quarter moon is distinctive by its east (or left) side being lit up, as the sun is shining on it from below that horizon, about to make its appearance.
For some reason, the moon, as a focal point in books and movies, seems to have a mind of its own. In the wrong hands, it’s full one night, a sliver the next. Or the villain is anticipating a new moon tomorrow (he plans to use the dark of night for some nefarious scheme), but right now it’s glowing overhead, as bright as a fire at midnight!
Is this Hollywood’s fault? They’ve been playing fast and loose with this for years, and we probably see movies more often than we step outside and take note of where the moon is, where it was last night and the night before.
Some brief pointers for your writing:
A full moon and new moon are two weeks apart. You can’t play with this. If your lovers are meeting one night under a full moon, and you need your villain prowling around beneath a dark sky, you either have to:
- wait a couple days and conduct his business in the first hours after sunset, before the moon rises. Wait too many hours, and the moon will be up, nearly full and very bright. A week after the full moon, the moon rises around midnight and only the eastern half is lit. (Note: this will be visible for half the day.)
- wait two weeks for a new moon
- build in some clouds!
When God said, “Let there be light,”
He didn’t mean authors could do it at will!
A famous author wrote about a sliver of moonlight one night, a bright “half moon” the next. Again, this is as impossible as having the sun set at 8 o’clock one evening and 2 o’clock the next. How can you avoid similar mistakes? Read through the cycle below. Then, if you don’t leave here with a new understanding of the Moon’s cycle, bookmark it and come back whenever you’re plotting night scenes.
Let’s start at the beginning. Please remember that you cannot skip around. Day 1 is followed by Day 2, and so on. If you need a dark night during a “visible moon” period, remember cloud cover!