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What is Tone?

Whatever genre you choose, you have to choose the tone you wish to set.

What does that mean?

Tone is closely connected to theme. Theme is the message you wish your reader to take away from your story. You can explore the people, the place, the time, the rules, the behaviors, etc. You suggest whether something is good or bad. You can also present multiple sides to a thematic argument and let your audience decide whether something is good, bad, or morally ambiguous.

There can be light and dark scenes, up and down scenes, but what is your intention for the story overall? How do you want your reader to feel about the central theme?

Tone is revealed through setting, descriptions, actions, and dialogue. Tone is delivered via word choice and reflects the bias of your narrator.

Let's examine examples of tone. 

1. Caustic: the goal is to emphasize the ugly truth of the theme in a cutting way.

2. Comedic: the goal is to make your audience laugh with delight about the central theme.

3. Light-hearted: the goal is to entertain without getting too deep into the theme.

4. Ominous: the goal is to emphasize the seriousness and potential danger of the theme.

5. Sarcastic: the goal is to treat the central theme with contempt.

6. Serious: the goal is to treat the central theme with sober reflection despite the levity of the tale.

7. Suspenseful: the goal is to suggest the central theme has critical stakes.

8. Terrifying: the goal is frighten the reader by infusing the central theme with life and death consequences.

9. Thought Provoking: the goal is to leave the reader pondering the central theme long after the last page has been turned.

10. Tragic: the goal is to reveal a heart-breaking truth.

11. Wistful: the goal is to make the reader long for a past or a future that could have been.

It is important to consider the tone you wish to take with your overall story. When your tone is inconsistent, the reader will feel something is off even if she can't put her finger on it.

Continue reading about tone here.

For more about how to craft plots using conflict check out, Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of conflict available in print and e-book and check out the free tools and information about the series on my website.

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