Set the TONE

Using sentence, length, paragraphing, dialogue to create the tone for the action

Whatever novel you are currently reading, take a look at the author’s method for establishing tone. For example if this is a thriller, sentences might be short—even chopped. If the mood is romantic, there might be far more details about settings and clothing and gazes and touches. For a novel set in a foreign country, the author may make use of the five senses to set the scene and establish a tone. Here’s an example:

Outside the exam room in the ER I could hear life going on as if my husband weren’t dying--chatter at the nurses station about food and kids and weekend plans; the clatter of a metal cart; the swoosh of a gurney brake pedal released; the undercurrent of anxious loved ones interrogating staff about how ‘this’ was possible—“he was fine and then…;” the smell of bleach mingling with the smell of alcohol and a pizza I had seen delivered as the EMTs rolled my husband down the corridor--then a shout…a cry of distress…a shriek of pain…and laughter that seemed so completely inappropriate to the setting and brought me to my feet prepared to protest as the glass door slid open and a hand pushed back the privacy curtain—a hand belonging to a man young enough to be our grandson who bypassed me as if I were no more than a stand for hanging an IV bag and went straight to the computer by the bed, never once looking at my husband as he read through notes taken by others and it seemed as if the noise that had been blunted by the closed glass door invaded and filled the space until it felt there was no room for us—me and my husband—who was dying.

Okay—your turn. Write the opening scene of a novel so that reader will begin to know what to expect from the story. Share if you’re willing!!