Setting and Description 103

One thing some writers like to worry about is the atmosphere of the place their characters are in. Atmosphere is a subset of "tone" in writing, and if you get the former, the latter will fall into place... So instead of concentrating only on how the setting affects the mood, concentrate generally on the tone instead, and you've got all your bases covered.

Tone is a somewhat stylistic quirk in that certainly it will vary from one writer to the next because of writing style differences. However, there are some basics to understand about giving your work the appropriate tone. First, tone gives emphasis to a certain emotion--e.g. sarcastic, somber, gleeful. Second, tone sometimes changes several times in a work, but other times, it won't change at all, especially in shorter fiction. When it does change, it is usually due to a plot twist of some sort. (Or, alternatively, you might have a really moody first-person narrator. That works, too.)

To get the tone right, an author will use two of the key weapons in his or her arsenal: vocabulary and sentence structure... and much more commonly the latter than the former.

This is where your style training pays off after a while. The difference between "It was a dark and stormy night," "The rain pounded on the windows one evening," and "It rained," is simply that each is appropriate in a different scene and therefore context.

Your assignment: In one paragraph, describe a place you are very familiar with... and try to describe it in a good light. Then, in a second paragraph, describe the same place from the point of view of someone who cannot stand being there. You'll find that different words make their way into the tone; this is the vocabulary method.

Ah, but you're not done yet. Next, you get to write two more quick paragraphs. First, write about a dark and stormy night (note: don't use the words "dark," "stormy," or "night"). Then, write a paragraph about a bright, sunny day (don't use "bright," "sun/sunny," or "day"). This is using both methods at once.