Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A to Z Challenge: M is for Mood and Tone

Welcome to April. With its customary showers comes the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. For those who are unfamiliar with it:
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day. (Source) 
The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends. For more details and its history, go HERE 

My theme this year is EDITING

I'll be posting practical advice for editing any story, novel, or other piece of writing. Editing is something most authors struggle with, and after years of doing my own as well as that of others, I have a pretty good eye for what needs work. I'll be doing short posts on editing topics and (hopefully) dispensing simple, valuable advice to help everyone out there self-edit.

M is for Mood and Tone

Mood: (or atmosphere) an element that evokes certain feelings or vibes in readers through words and descriptions.

Tone: the attitude of a writer toward a subject or an audience; generally conveyed through the word choice or the viewpoint of a writer on a particular subject.

While either of these things can be conveyed in other ways (character, theme, even plot) I'm going to focus on word choice. When I edit a scene for mood and tone, I focus on diction--and sometimes sentence structure--to evoke certain feelings.

Tip for Editing:

1) Go through each chapter or scene and decide what kind of feeling you want the reader to have.

2) Read through for word choice. For example, use negative words to evoke a dark tone. This includes for feelings, descriptions, narrative thoughts, etc. Don't describe a happy, sunshiny day if you want a dark feel for the scene.

3) Read through for sentence structure. Short sentences help up the tension for dark, suspenseful, or action-filled scenes. Longer sentences and more flowery words will produce a more tranquil or emotional feel.

4) Add details. Go through and find places where you can add details you might not have thought of in your first writing. An extra feeling for the character, an extra description for something in the setting, all of which will help enhance your mood and tone.

How do you evoke mood?


  1. Great tips. My editor also helps me with mood and tone. He's that second set of eyes that is so important to writers.

    Stephen Tremp
    A to Z Cohost
    M is for Movies

    1. Yup, that's super important. My critique group is definitely helpful for me in this area as well. Thanks Stephen! :D

  2. Okay, I feel like I'm in English class now.

    So does the author's Tone set the Mood? I've never really thought about the difference, I kind of use the two words interchangeably.

    Something I've always aimed for (and not always succeeded at) is to adjust the writing style through a scene / chapter to build tension or action, especially at the climax of a story. Start with longer, more detailed sentences but steadily write shorter, simpler sentences so the reader automatically reads faster and faster as they approach the end. It gives a sense of urgency.

    I also like thrillers that have very short chapters that almost always end on a mini-cliffhanger, so that it's very easy to get carried away reading by artificially building urgency in the pace of the writing.

    1. Some very good points. Messing with sentence length to build urgency is one of those things that takes a lot of extra time, but definitely can add to the feel of the scene. Definitely worth it. But I agree that it's easy to make the build artificial if you get too carried away with it. :D Great points. And yes, I use mood and tone interchangeably, too. That's why I did both of them on this post. :D

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  4. "The murder scene was shiny and golden in the sun" probably doesn't have the same impact Liesel

    1. LOL. Yeah, probably not. Dark and scary always works better for a murder scene. :D

  5. Maurice's comment is funny!
    Short sentences definitely help ramp up an action scene.

  6. Never really thought to edit for mood or tone before. Some food for thought. Thanks.

    1. Sure thing. Thanks for stopping by, Jeffrey! :D