open hands holding change

Mood. Tone. What’s the difference and why is so important in your writing? Read on to learn how to use mood and tone to evoke an emotional response from your readers.

I was going through the questions on a Quora forum that I contribute to and came across one about mood and tone. The question was asking what the difference was and how do you create it in your writing. It was a question that made me, as an author, stop and consider what we do to create tone and mood in our writing.

Mood and tone help evoke an emotional response from your readers. It also helps set the atmosphere of the scene – and sometimes the entire book. Let’s delve into the difference between mood and tone and look at how to create it in your writing.

Mood – what is it and why is it important?

As mentioned above, mood helps set up the feeling you as the author is trying to convey. You could be trying to get the reader to feel anger, joy, anxiety, fear…you get the idea. The idea is to evoke an emotional response. While poems and short stories typically deal with one mood, novels can have multiple moods throughout. However, even if there are multiple moods conveyed in the novel, there tends to be an overarching mood to the story.

For example, in my novel Behind The Eyes Of Dorian Gray, I convey multiple moods from happiness and joy due to the upcoming Christmas holiday to love and affection. But the overall mood of the book is darker, filled with apprehension and fear of loss.

Creating mood in your writing is important because, when done right, it draws your reader in, and they become invested in the story. They develop feelings for your characters. They won’t want to put the book down until they know how things will turn out. Not enough mood in your story, or moods that change too fast throughout, will leave readers struggling and they don’t become invested in the story.

How do you create mood in the story you are telling?

Mood can be created very easily using the following four story-telling elements:

Setting – location, time of day, time of year, and even the weather can help set the mood for the entire book.

Tone – I’ll delve more into this below, but for now, tone has to do with the point-of-view the story is in and the attitude of the narrator about the events taking place around them.

Word choice – the English language is full of great words that can be used to set the mood they are trying to create. One of my go-to tools when writing is my Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipfer. It’s a great alternative to a thesaurus when you’re looking for an innovative word to use to evoke that emotional response.

Theme – What is the subject matter of your story? The theme of your poem, short story or book can also help set the mood. If your theme is about love, then your story could be full of all the feels that come with falling in love, from happiness to sadness.

Things to keep in mind to create mood

Creating mood in writing should come as natural as possible. When you are writing or even editing, keep in mind the four elements mentioned above. This will help you make better word choices that will allow you to create a believable mood that captures the reader. Try to use at least three of the four elements for the best results.

If know what mood you want to create but you’re stuck for the right words, consider a brainstorming session that leaves you with a list of mood words you can choose from. Incorporate those words into your scene and read it back to yourself. You’ll be able to tell if you’ve hit the mark.

Finally, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and switch up the mood from something that is expected to the unexpected. You wouldn’t expect a wedding scene to be gloomy or a scene with a ghost to be humorous. Yet it works. A fitting example is this quick exchange from my novel Behind The Eyes Of Dorian Gray.

An intrigued smile crossed Kitty’s lips, and she gazed back at Rachael. “And how long did you plan on keeping your ghostly roommate a secret?” she inquired merrily as she clasped her hands at her waist. “I mean, really Rachael, he is much better looking than that portrait makes him out to be. One can only capture so much on the canvas.”

Rachael blushed slightly as she walked past Kitty to stand next to Dorian. “You’re the last person on this Earth I could keep him a secret from.”

Kitty laughed. “You are quite right in that.” She slowly stepped towards them. “Especially when I laid out the cards and discovered him.”

Dorian gazed at the newcomer, his eyes narrowing slightly, his jaw tensing imperceptibly. “She can see me?” he asked cautiously, turning to face Kitty more fully.

All story snippets Copyright 2021, Beth A. Freely. All rights reserved. Not to be duplicated.

Instead of being afraid of the ghost Kitty has discovered living in Rachael’s home, she is intrigued by him. The scene continues with some lighthearted banter, even though there is an underlying element of apprehension running through the story.

So, how does tone fit in?

It doesn’t matter if the story is in first person or third person point of view, tone is

the attitude of the narrator. As the writer, you convey the tone of the story by the words you choose. It reveals – or conceals – the context of the words. Again, it is used to evoke an emotional response from the reader.

Sometimes tone evokes the wrong response. It’s the difference between getting a message that says, “We need to talk,” and “You have a minute to chat?” The first one probably evokes a sense of concern or panic while the second is less threatening and more relaxed.

You will run into readers that will take the tone of your writing the wrong way. It happens. Understanding your audience can help alleviate the misinterpretation of your writing’s tone. The use of appropriate language and punctuation can help ensure the tone of your narrator comes across the way you want it to, especially since it can be positive, negative and everything in between.

Have you ever run across moods and tones in writing that evoked a strong emotional response? I would love to hear about it.


Comments are closed