Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tone, mood, atmosphere and voice: Creating them in your writing (Resurrection Blogfest)

Resurrection Blogfest
As you can probably see from the lack of posts (and friends haha), this blog is in it's infancy. I have however ran numerous blogs before, so I thought I'd pick a popular post from my old blog for Mina Lobo's resurrection blogfest.

When defining the steampunk genre, it is important to realise that tone, mood, atmosphere and voice make up a huge part of it. If you are writing steampunk yourself, you may find that without the correct use of these elements your work falls flat and doesn't feel at all "steampunk" no matter how many cogs you throw at it.


Steampunk writing tone
Tone, atmosphere, and mood are often confused with one another. "Tone" is thewriter's attitude that is expressed in the writing.

For example, the tone could be suspenseful, because the author holds back certain information to create this feeling.

Tone is also generally thought of as describing the work as a whole, rather than a particular section.

How do you create tone in your writing?

It helps to decide what kind of tone you want. Often it depends on the genre. If its a mystery novel, then the tone should be suspenseful, if its a romance novel then its likely that you'll want a certain amount of sexual tension. In the case of steampunk, the tone may depend on what subgenres you have in your work, but generally steampunk is very action based, so your tone would reflect that. It's often more the plot than the actual word choice that creates this tone, as the plot generally builds up to a climax that reveals it.


Steampunk writing mood

While "tone" is the writer's attitude, "mood" is the feeling the reader gets from the writing. While tone often describes the writing overall, the mood of a piece of writing can change throughout it. For example, at the death of a character the mood could be depressed or sad, but at the discovery of a long lost friend, the mood could be upbeat and joyful. A readers mood often goes hand in hand with a characters, if the character-reader relationship is strong enough.

How do you create mood in your writing?

While tone is often created using plot devices, mood comes more from word choice and sentence structure. Mood can be created in descriptions of the surroundings, feelings of the characters and actions that take place. Choosing appropriate words for different events will create the mood that is right for a particular scene.


Steampunk Writing atmosphere
The definition of "atmosphere" is debatable. Some say that it is the overall feeling created from the tone and mood, but others argue that it is the emotions and feeling created from the character. I prefer the character definition, and regardless of how a characters mood reflects on a readers, it is important to think about.

For example:

"I bounced on the balls of my feet on the platform and tucked a stray curl into my hat, resisting the urge to pull away from Aunt's firm grip on my elbow. But then he stepped off the train and impropriety went out the window. "Papa!" I cried out, pulling off my hat and waving it in the air in greeting, letting my carefully tamed curls loose before running towards him."

hopefully invokes an atmosphere of excitement in the writing, which is what the character is feeling.

How do you create atmosphere in your writing?

Atmosphere is about understanding character feelings and getting in their head. It is often most effective for 1st person and 3rd person limited POVs, but as long as your reader can have a relationship with the characters, and feel their pain and joy, then atmosphere can be created. For the most part, atmosphere is about choosing the correct emotions that go with a certain character and the situation they are in. It could be best to concentrate on one characters feelings per scene, rather than trying to cover everyones, because otherwise the atmosphere becomes diluted and is harder to relate to.


Steampunk Writing Voice
What is voice?

It's a little hard to explain, but has done a reasonable job:

"Voice is the author's style, the quality that makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author's attitude, personality and character."

In my view, voice combines, tone, mood, atmosphere and style to create an overall 'feel' in your writing, which generally translates across all pieces of work.

For example, Dean Koontz has written may books, all with a different atmosphere, mood and tone, but the way he combines them is distinctive, and it is easy to know that he has written any one of his books, even if one is written in first person, and another in third.

How do you get 'voice' in your writing?

Voice tends to emerge naturally in writing. They more you write, the closer you will come to discovering it. A lot of it comes down to word choice and sentence structure. Shorter words and sentences create a more abrupt voice, and when combined with particular moods and tones, it becomes quite distinctive.

Sometimes however, it helps to try and define possible aspects of your voice. For example, I believe that my voice tends to have a self-depricating edge to it. It takes a lot of writing (and reading your own work) to discover this, and it can only be done by letting it emerge naturally, without worrying about it.

The most important thing to remember with voice is not to let other's opinions on your work sway you. If someone says that your work could be "funnier", but your voice isn't naturally humourous, forcing it into your writing won't work. Once you begin to discover aspects of your voice however, it is easier to manipulate them, and use them to your advantage.


  1. Stopping in from the blogfest. Great post and advice you have here. I do enjoy steampunk and it's nice to "meet" someone writing in the genre. My current wip is set in present day but one of my characters is a steampunk enthusiast. The problem I have with voice is not being able to identify it. Guess I just need to keep writing. (:

  2. Dropping in from Blogfest - wow this entry would have been useful for my shortlived teaching career.


  3. Steampunk or any other genre, your points are relevant and useful. Great job putting them together -- clear, concise, and well-written.

    Excellent resurrection post!

  4. Very good points about mood, voice, atmosphere, and tone. I write historical, and I'm amazed at some of the more recent YA historicals I've encountered that don't even try to convey a truly historical atmosphere or mood. If you're going to write in a genre, make it an integral part of the story, don't just use it as window-dressing!

  5. This holds true for every genre. Great information to resurrect. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Great observations and explorations of writerly type terms. Thanks for participating in my blogfest!
    Some Dark Romantic

  7. Great post for anyone interested in writing steampunk! And anyone writing in other genres too, I guess, as they can apply these headings to their own genre.


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