What Is Mood in Writing? Crafting Emotion for Impact

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Julia McCoy

Creator and Co-founder

what is mood in writing

You know that feeling you get when you’re reading a really good book and you can’t put it down? Your heart is racing, you’re completely immersed in the world, and you’re feeling all the emotions of the characters. That is called mood.

What is mood in writing?

Mood is the secret sauce that writers use to evoke an emotional response in their readers. It’s that feeling, that atmosphere that permeates a piece of writing and pulls you in. It’s how a piece of writing makes you feel.

A mood can be anything from lighthearted and cheerful to dark and ominous, from hopeful and inspirational to suspenseful and terrifying. And, while mood might seem secondary to simply telling a compelling story, the two cannot exist separately.

Let’s explore what is mood in writing and how to create content with maximum emotional impact.

Table Of Contents:

The Power of Mood

To understand what is mood in writing, let’s step into the world of literary giants:

Think about the opening lines of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

“During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens…”

Poe throws us headfirst into a somber, oppressive, and downright eerie world.

Now, contrast that with the opening of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” where we’re introduced to a seemingly ordinary world tinged with magic and wonder. It makes us feel excited, full of potential, immersed in something familiar but infused with possibility.

The mood set in each example is strikingly different, achieved through careful word choice, vivid descriptions, and overall tone.

Authors like Agatha Christie use this to build suspense and intrigue.

The opening scene of a story or novel is particularly important for establishing mood, as it sets the stage for what’s to come.

Tone vs. Mood

The relationship of tone and mood in literature is nuanced.

This is an area where many writers get tripped up, particularly if their story is plot-driven rather than character-driven.

Mood refers to the general feeling the writing evokes in the reader, while tone is the writer’s attitude toward the subject.

Tone can be humorous, serious, formal, informal, or sarcastic.

Tone words and mood words are often found within the same family – after all, authors want you to feel a certain way about what’s happening, and this aligns with how they feel, or at least the ‘character’ or ‘voice’ they have created on the page.

Bottom line: Tone refers to the author’s attitude toward the subject or the audience while mood is about how the reader feels when reading the text.

Types of Mood in Writing

In literature, “mood” refers to the atmosphere a writer creates for the reader. It’s the feeling the reader gets from the words on the page. Think of it as the emotional landscape your writing builds for your audience to journey through. Just like a physical landscape, mood can be bright and cheerful or dark and ominous.

Here are some common words that describe mood examples in writing:

  1. Cheerful
  2. Melancholic
  3. Optimistic
  4. Pessimistic
  5. Tense
  6. Calm
  7. Joyful
  8. Gloomy
  9. Excited
  10. Anxious
  11. Serene
  12. Angry
  13. Nostalgic
  14. Fearful
  15. Hopeful
  16. Sad
  17. Suspenseful
  18. Reflective
  19. Depressed
  20. Romantic

Skilled writers carefully select their words and craft their sentences to establish mood and create a particular reading experience. They understand the power of figurative language like metaphors and similes to add depth and complexity to the mood.

For example, a writer might describe a setting as “gray and lifeless” to evoke a mood of sadness or despair.

Alternatively, they might use vibrant imagery and positive connotations to create a hopeful or joyful mood. Understanding how to create and manipulate mood is a key element of powerful writing, regardless of genre or form.

Mastering the Art of Creating Mood

So, how do you create atmosphere and mood in creative writing?

1. Word Choice

Words hold incredible power. It’s less about using fancy words to evoke emotion and more about carefully placing those words.

A “blue sky” sets a different scene than a “stormy night.”

Authors like Maya Angelou were masters of this. Their writing evokes a range of emotions by strategically selecting every single word.

2. Sensory Details

Don’t just tell your readers how to feel — show them. Imagine describing a walk in the woods.

  • Sight: dappled sunlight filtering through the leaves.
  • Sound: the gentle rustling of leaves underfoot
  • Smell: the earthy aroma of pine needles
  • Touch: cool air against your skin

By engaging the senses, you create a more immersive experience for the reader.

Ernest Hemingway, known for his concise and evocative prose, did this masterfully. He used vivid descriptions of sights, sounds, and smells to transport readers to the bullfights of Spain or the battlefields of World War I.

3. Setting and Atmosphere

The setting acts as a stage. A dark, crumbling castle evokes something totally different than a sunny, bustling city.

Consider how the setting of your piece can influence the mood.

Pay attention to time, location, and cultural context as part of your subject matter.

Kathleen Norris’ chilling depiction of a modern house is made more sinister because it’s “flooded with light.” The setting should enhance the emotional journey.

4. Pace and Sentence Structure

Consider this: short, choppy sentences build tension and urgency.

Think about young children – when they’re afraid, how quickly they try to explain themselves.

Long, flowing sentences create a more contemplative or leisurely pace.

Think about the effect you want to create on your reader. Do you want them to feel anxious and breathless or calm and reflective? The way you structure your sentences can play a big role in creating this effect.

5. Show, Don’t Tell

Don’t tell your reader a character is sad; show their slumped shoulders, the tremor in their voice, their slow unwilling procession through a crowd.

Instead of saying, “The old house was creepy,” you might write: “The floorboards groaned under my feet, and shadows danced on the walls as the wind rattled the windows.”

6. Literary Devices

Similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole — all those goodies add depth to your writing and create emotional resonance.

Use literary devices like any skilled author and make sure they work naturally.

For example, instead of writing, “The night was dark,” you could write, “The night was as black as ink,” using a simile to create a more vivid image.

These devices help you to paint a picture with words and create a more visceral experience for your reader. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different literary devices to see what works best for your writing.

FAQs: What is Mood in Writing

What is “mood” with an example?

Imagine reading a story that takes place on a stormy night. The wind howls outside, rain lashes against the windows, and thunder rumbles in the distance.

The author uses words like “dark,” “foreboding,” and “eerie” to describe the setting. This creates an ominous mood – one of suspense, tension, and maybe even fear.

How do you determine the mood in writing?

Pay close attention to the author’s choices: their word choice, imagery, setting, and sentence structure all contribute to how the writing makes you feel.

Ask yourself: What emotions am I experiencing? Is the overall feeling lighthearted, gloomy, romantic, or something else?

Think about how the author uses language to create a specific effect. Are they using short, punchy sentences to create a sense of urgency, or long, flowing sentences to create a more relaxed mood?

What is the mood of the text?

This means “What overall feeling do you get from this text?”

Think about a short story about loss: the mood might be melancholic, nostalgic, or even peaceful.

Contrast this with a story about a couple falling in love; in this case, the mood would likely be happy, romantic, and exciting.


More than just a literary device, “mood” is the beating heart of any story, poem, or creative piece.

Crafting a strong mood in writing goes beyond simply choosing the right words; it involves creating an emotional journey that resonates with readers.

By paying attention to sensory detail and harnessing the power of language, you draw readers in, immersing them in the experience.

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