First - thanks for all the replies about comedy and the thriller. I've got a new question. What provides better atmosphere in a thriller/mystery/crime novel, fog or pollution? I mean that in the most pervasive sense. For instance, WWII France is fog, Cold War Bucharest is pollution.
There's an implied difference. Fog is natural; pollution is man-made. Depending on context and manner of description, you can make one completely different from the other, even though they may appear quite similar physically.
Also, fog is disorienting; pollution can be irritating. (To the eyes, nose, sinuses.) This allows another way for either to become a character, instead of just "weather." (I know pollution isn't really weather, but it fills much the same role here.)
This is a good series of questions. You've made me think of things that don't often occur to me, which is good.
I think you've answered your question. What kind of atmosphere suits your story?
My stories can have both - although not necessarily in the same book. I'm just curious as to people's thoughts on their own work - or the genre in general. I'm a sucker for a good conversation:)
As you say this is just a matter of opinion, but I like my novels gritty. Pollution is great for that. I grew up in Los Angeles in the 1970s and 80s and I could go outside and watch the smog rolling in the way that a San Franciscan can watch fog. With the smog always came heat and the crime that goes with it. To me a gritty novel just feels right in the choking smog of the city.
Nice description, John. Pollution is gritty and violent, while fog is, well, mysterious and violent, isn't it? It also seems to me that pollution - like the Cold War - is more morally vague. The good guys really get their hands dirty, whereas, in a foggy noir thriller there seems to be a starker contrast between right and wrong, good and bad. Not always, but often.
When Captain Balboa sailed by Los Angeles in the 16th century, he called it the Valley of Smoke.
I didn't know. Amazing. Where did the smoke come from?
Along with our smog there is a natural haze. Because of the direction of the wind and the configuration of our mountains, nothing in the air can escape the area.
I can see that. I was wondering what Balboa had to say about it. It doesn't seem to have discouraged people from settling there.
No, it makes things hazy, but it also traps more moisture. Without that configuration, we'd just be the Western edge of the desert, but farming really grew up because of that. That's what the haze is, and why people were initially attracted to it. Then industries that needed a permanent summer, like certain types of engineering and movie productions, brought in our huge population.
Ah. Thanks, John.
The plain that Los Angeles lies on is a natural creator of heat inversions. I picked this off ABOUT.COM:
"Inversion layers ... are areas where the normal decrease in air temperature with increasing altitude is reversed and air above the ground is warmer than the air below it.
"Inversion layers ... block atmospheric flow ... and areas with heavy pollution are prone to unhealthy air and an increase in smog when an inversion is present because they trap pollutants at ground level instead of circulating them away."