Mood In Writing: What It Is And How To Create It – Jericho Writers
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Mood In Writing: What It Is And How To Create It

Mood In Writing: What It Is And How To Create It

Readers often choose a book they want to read based on what ‘mood’ they are in – and, in turn, how that book will make them feel.

There are so many different ways a book can make you feel – you may want to read something that puts you in an eerie mood, a cheerful mood, whimsical mood, or a romantic mood.

In this article, we will be looking at mood examples and how the right mood words can create emotional responses in your readers. I will explain the difference between mood and tone, and how to utilise both effectively to engage the reader and leave them feeling the exact emotion you intended.

Discover how to become a better writer and get people’s emotions evoked through your writing.

What Is Mood?

Mood refers to how a reader feels as a result of an author’s tone used to evoke more than one mood.

Mood and tone are sometimes confused.

Tone in writing often refers to the author/protagonist’s feelings and how they’re expressed on the page, whereas mood is how the reader feels as the result of the tone used by the author to affect mood.

For example, the tone an author has used may be described as ‘immersive’, ‘dark’, ‘compelling’. The tone of how the author portrays a character on the page helps you identify the mood of a book. But don’t get tone, or mood, confused with ‘author voice’.

If you are writing a thriller, for instance, you want the reader to feel unnerved. Maybe you want them to feel mistrusting of your main character.

For instance, if you were to start the book with ‘it was a dark and stormy night’ and use short sentences, the mood (feeling for the reader) is immediately one of unease and apprehension.

When writing your first draft make a note of how you want your reader to feel, then look at the different ways you can achieve that.

Why Is Creating Mood Important?

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a hilarious rom com, or a spooky gothic thriller, your end goal is the same – you are creating mood.

But why is that important?

Because if you can evoke emotion, your reader is more likely to remember your story long after they turn the final page. The reader experiences different moods in different genres, which is a huge part of their experience.


Examples Of Mood In A Story

The mood of a story is determined by using different words, imagery, and tone. Let’s study different moods in writing with the following examples:

Example One:

Agatha Christie is one of my favourite authors because she truly makes me feel something.

The others went upstairs, a slow unwilling procession. If this had been an old house, with creaking wood, and dark shadows, and heavily panelled walls, there might have been an eerie feeling. But this house was the essence of modernity. There were no dark corners – no possible sliding panels – it was flooded with electric light – everything was new and bright and shining. There was nothing hidden in this house, nothing concealed. It had no atmosphere about it. Somehow, that was the most frightening thing of all. They exchanged good-nights on the upper landing. Each of them went into his or her own room, and each of them automatically, almost without conscious thought, locked the door…

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

What Christie has done here is incredibly clever. Her setting and atmosphere deliberately do not match the mood she is creating. The modern, open and safe atmosphere of the house should be a non-threatening location; but readers are left feeling uneasy. Christie is deliberately creating a mood of unease by way of subverting expectations (but more on this later).

The reader is left with a sense of foreboding and fear, despite the setting being typically welcoming. The clever placement of the characters automatically ‘locking the door’ makes the reader feel fear.

Example Two:

Alice in Wonderland is glorious in so many ways, but in this case, Carroll is also an expert when it comes to creating mood on the page. It’s done in such a subtle manner that as children, we can’t immediately see why it makes us feel a certain way.

“It was much pleasanter at home,” thought poor Alice, “when one wasn’t always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits. I almost wish I hadn’t gone down that rabbit-hole—and yet—and yet—it’s rather curious, you know, this sort of life!”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Carroll uses whimsical settings and descriptions to create an extravagant world. We already know this world is fantastical, but what is it about the writing that evokes a feeling of childhood innocence and wonder in the reader?

Take a look at this second example:

She stretched herself up on tiptoe, and peeped over the edge of the mushroom, and her eyes immediately met those of a large caterpillar, that was sitting on the top with its arms folded, quietly smoking a long hookah, and taking not the smallest notice of her or of anything else.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

We know, from the description, that Alice could and should evoke a sense of danger; a new world she doesn’t recognise and a life she doesn’t know or understand. Instead, we are left feeling excited.

Example Three:

Trying to create a mood of sorrow, despair and grief on the page can be incredibly difficult.

So, here’s how it went in God’s Heart: The six or seven or ten of us walked/wheeled in, grazed at a decrepit selection of cookies and lemonade, sat down in the Circle of Trust, and listened to Patrick recount for the thousandth time his depressingly miserable life story…

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

This excerpt is the perfect example of how a few words can help create a deliberate mood on the page.

The placement of ‘walked/wheeled’ evokes sadness within the reader. The use of the word ‘decrepit’, not describing the lives that inhabit the room, but the cookies, is so powerful. Even more so because these are descriptions through the eyes of a teenager.


How To Establish Your Story’s Mood

There are many ways to establish and create mood in fiction. For me, I follow the rule of four.

  • Setting
  • Tone
  • Theme
  • Language

Here’s how you can establish mood.

Using Setting

The setting of a book and how you use all three different aspects of immersive setting can heavily influence the story’s mood. Be it that you juxtapose a calm setting to evoke a sense of fear or foreboding, or lean into a setting to expose emotions such as innocence or love. Setting can be your best friend. It’s also the perfect way to ‘show don’t tell’ and allow your reader to truly feel.

Using Tone

Mood and Tone are two different techniques and can easily be confused. However, once you have understood the difference, tweaking the tone in your writing can very quickly establish the mood of your novel.

Using Themes

Establishing a theme for your book is one of the fundamentals of plotting, but solidifying your theme will help describe the mood.

If you are writing a coming-of-age novel, the overall mood of the book may be hopeful, romantic, innocent even. If you are writing about grief, the overall mood of the book will lean more towards the ‘sad’ end of the spectrum.

Making sure you nail down your theme will go a long way to helping you ensure there is mood on the page.

Using Language

As you can see from the example with John Green, language matters. The words we use matter. We spend our lives trying to twist the same twenty-six letters into words that will elicit an emotional response, so the words we choose matter.


Tips For Creating A Particular Mood

Knowing how to create mood is one thing, but how do you go about doing that in practical terms?

Mood Boards

Creating a mood board during your planning and plotting stages will keep you on track. Use pictures, words and images that create a particular mood you want your readers to experience. Keep it close at hand and refer back to it throughout each draft. (Pinterest is great for this).

Brainstorm Mood Related Words

Draw a ‘spider diagram’ and put the mood you want your reader to experience at the centre. Explore all the words, emotions and settings you associate with that mood.

Subvert Expectations

Subverting expectations is a way to break the ‘traditional’ rules or expectations in writing to create something new and fresh.

It might be easy to always go with the expected, but as writers, we hate the expected. So why not think about shaking things up a bit? Think outside the box.

Instead of having your love story set in a romantic location, why not create a creepy mood, or flip that ghost story with a nod towards humour or a happy mood. Twist your narrative and create a scene that no one is expecting.

Having a great plot, twists and shocks and even deep characterisation means nothing at all if you don’t leave the reader feeling something.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Moods In Literature?

Mood in literature is when an author uses tone in their writing in such a way that it leaves the reader experiencing certain emotions at the end of the novel.

What Is An Example Of Mood In Literature?

One of the best ways to determine the mood of a piece is to ask yourself how it makes you feel as you read it. For example, do you want those reading your story to feel:

  • Joyful                                  
  • Lonely
  • Melancholic                             
  • Optimistic
  • Panicked
  • Peaceful                     
  • Pensive
  • Pessimistic                 
  • Reflective                   
  • Restless

What Is Used To Identify Mood In Writing?

Generally, tone, setting, theme and language, used together can help set the mood in fiction. A combination of these, used effectively, will help generate a strong sense of mood on the page.

Feelings Matter

All in all, how you write your story determines the feelings the person reading it will experience.

You can evoke several moods all at once, or twist up each scene to take your readers through a rollercoaster of emotions. The mood created by your choice of words, sentence length, tone, syntax, juxtaposition, voice, and setting will make your work more memorable and enjoyable.

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