1. mootz

    mootz Member

    Mar 6, 2010
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    Tone and Mood

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by mootz, Mar 12, 2012.

    I am making the transition between writing short things and passages to trying to piece together a novel. I haven't quite mastered the art of a single scene, but I feel like I am developing a feel for it. My question--and I do realize how hard a question it is to answer--is how do you manage the change of tones in a novel from chapter to chapter?

    In my personal example, it's told through two first person perspectives. The main main character is a young guy who is looking at a major life change coming up. He has lighter conversations, more youthful expressions and jokes around.

    The second main is a military captain. He is at the end of his days, or at least close to them. He is in the middle of a mission and tension is high. He has the burden of his choices as a leader of men.

    What sort of techniques should be implemented at the beginning of a chapter to symbolize the transition? Is the page break enough? Should I just concentrate on making sure the chapter stands on its own and let the reader figure out what is happening?

    So far, the name of the character and their location and time is at the beginning of each chapter. So, there really isn't any reason to confuse the characters. But, if the two sets of stories have vastly different tones, moods and sentence structures, would that startle the reader or cause a problem?

    Also, if you have any experience with books that have multiple first person narratives that you think are good and I should try out, I'd love to hear about them.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. BlizzardHarlequin

    BlizzardHarlequin New Member

    Mar 12, 2012
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    What an interesting way of making a story.

    I think that the emotions of this young guy going through the life changes, and the military captain making the changes and choices of how his leading will take them into their mission tie in very well.

    Don't try and over-complicate it, but let the reader figure out as the story progresses. A pagebreak can be handy for a chapter or two but always link them so it doesn't just stop right in its tracks.
  3. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Jun 13, 2010
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    Queens, NY
    The transition to a new chapter is a break in the reader's concentration, and alerts him/her to the fact that the story is moving to something else. A shift in time, place and/or point of view is common with chapter breaks, so you needn't worry about it, it will be obvious to the reader. I don't think you need to link the two threads of the story chapter by chapter, as long as they eventually do link up.

    You can also change POV within a chapter, simply using a paragraph break, but that may be more difficult switching between two first-person narratives. You may want to consider using 3rd person limited instead, which would probably make it easier as long as it doesn't interfere with anything you are trying to do that really requires 1st person.
  4. Elgaisma

    Elgaisma Contributor Contributor

    Jun 12, 2010
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    The styles really need to and should be more distinctive in multiple first person. My favourite example is less than literary but I love Hardy Boys: Undercover Brothers a first person alternating between Frank and Joe. (I did struggle with Aunt Gertrude becoming Aunt Trudy though)

    With multiple first person I find it even more useful to have them 'cast' with an actor that I can study for body language and speech quirks it helps keep them distinctive. #

    Setting mood and tone I find easiest by envisaging the scene to be told. I have third very limited person detective novel and once I can sort of see them and their setting it helps pick out the elements of their surroundings and personality that will set the tone for a serious scene, a heartbreaking scene, a comedy scene etc

    Also unless they are not it pays to remember that characters are human as well - and have five senses, not just sight and hearing.
  5. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    What you are describing is character driven narration. Essentially, the narration is written in a particular character's voice.

    You have to have a pretty good grasp on dialogue to pull it off. Even though you aren't formatting it as dialogue, you have to be adept at capturing the manner of speech and thought of each character used in this way. Sentence structure, favorite buzz words and slang, analogies related to the character's interests. and so on will help make each voice stand out.

    Sue Grafton does a great job in T is for Trespass. Everything is written in first person. Most of the chapters are as usual told from the sardonic and witty perspective of her protagonist, Kinsey Millhone. But several of the chapters in this installment step inside the head of the antagonist.
  6. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Jul 11, 2010
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    Near Los Angeles
    My first novel has two main characters, and it's told in third person limited from both of them, in alternate scenes. My MC 1 is an older man, well-travelled, multilingual, very literate with a big vocabulary. My MC 2 is a young boy from a hunter-gatherer culture, who, while he's extremely competent at hunting, has very little experience doing anything else and has a much more limited vocabulary and a more limited mindset in general. He's not stupid (very smart, actually), but his lack of schooling and experience puts his mind in a small box.

    Even though I narrate in third person, I have to change POV characters from scene to scene, and I have to adjust my vocabulary and imagery accordingly. It's a challenge, but it's great fun! It makes me WORK at being a writer, and that gives me joy.

    So I'm in the same situation as Mootz. My advice is, go for it! I think the reader will be able to realize whose POV is being used if you're consistent with the language. As you transition from one character to another, you might confuse a reader for a sentence or two, but not more. They'll figure it out and go with it.

    Trust your readers. They're smart. They're creative. They're ... just like you.
  7. killbill

    killbill Member

    Feb 27, 2012
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    where the mind is without fear...
    Minstrel, I like your last piece of advice :)

    To the OP, I am not a fan of too many first person narrator in a novel but in your case there is a sound reason for the change in tone, so I think it will work. I will be surprise but it will be a pleasant surprise if written well(see cogito's advice). Yes, readers are intelligent, don' t try to explain or indicate the reasons for the change in tone too much. Let them figure it out.
  8. Mallory

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Jun 27, 2010
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    Tampa Bay
    Study how different rhetorical devices and syntactical devices (punctuation, indents, sentence structure, passive/active voice, phonetic sounds of words used, etc.) create different tones.

    For example, short sentences give a more choppy/chaotic tone, while lots of longer sentences sound more meandering or thoughtful. Passive voice creates a detached tone, and is usually something you want to avoid unless you want detachment on purpose. Making a sentence its very own paragraph will give it impact. Using repetition in a skilled and deliberate way creates a buildup, and then gives impact to the first sentence/phrase to break the repetition. And that's only the beginning -- there's been whole books written about it. (Just keep in mind that using too much of one thing can also make things sound cheesy.)

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