Write About Where you live(d)

Share your culture, your community and your geography


What is the author’s attitude toward his subject? When the reader answers this question, he or she will be reflecting on your tone, or the mode in which you choose to write your piece.

The Tragic Mode

In this curriculum the tragic mode goes beyond the dramatic concept of tragedy in which a hero of high estate is brought to destruction because of a flaw in his own character. Here, the tragic mode includes, as well, plays in which ordinary men are destroyed by their environment, poems which reveal a pessimistic view of life, works which discuss tragedy rather than present it, and generally, works which are dominated by doubt, sadness, despair, disillusionment, or some other sombre mood.

The Comic Mode

In the comic mode the author has selected and controlled his material so that the reader is amused and entertained. The characters and their problems engage the reader’s delighted attention without unduly arousing his concern, for he knows that the mishaps are never catastrophic and that all will turn out well in the end.

The Romantic Mode

The romanticist sees everything as a little bit better than real. His rose-colored glasses soften the harsh outlines of what is ordinarily ugly or painful to make it endurable or even appealing. He often idealizes the circumstances of life, especially what is remote in terms of either time or distance, and extols the simple virtues to make them appear greater or more abundant that they really are.

Valuing as he does what is simple, spontaneous and natural he tends to put great faith in his emotions and to look disparagingly on authority, discipline and social convention.

Listed under the romantic mode are poems that deal with love, beauty, patriotism, devotions, nature and youth; stories and plays that celebrate adventure, sacrifice, heroism, intrigue, romantic love and triumph over adversity; and non-fiction that tends to be personal and impressionistic rather than objective and analytical.

The Ironic Mode

Irony involves a contrast between what is and what could be – between what we expect and what we get. Whether we look at an individual’s deeds and goals or at mankind’s we see that they are often inappropriate to what we regard as valid circumstance. The twentieth century, which has won so many of the goals set by earlier generations, is marked perhaps more than any other by dissatisfaction, despair and violence. The loving go unloved, the hungry remain unfed, and the unworthy exercise power.

This kind of incongruity is one of the striking realities of human life and has always been a preoccupation of the author and poet. That it is so much in evidence today no doubt accounts for the tone of so much twentieth century writing, especially that of the sixties and seventies: the protest songs, plays and novels by “angry young men” and even the cynical humor of some television skits and monologues.

However, a contrast between expectation and actual outcome is not always a cause for outrage. Sometimes writers use the ironic situations in human affairs to intrigue or amuse the reader.

The philosophic Mode

The philosophic writer is the one whose works tend to be thoughtful, speculative and quite possibly inconclusive rather that factual and definitive. His writings might deal with the quest for knowledge, or be reflections upon the nature of good and evil, man’s destiny, man’s relations with his fellow man and with God, or death.

The philosophic mode is certainly not one that excludes qualities we see in other modes, no do other modes exclude the philosophic. A moment’s consideration of Hamlet, for example, shows the futility of regarding any mode as an exclusive category or, conversely, of considering any major work to be representative of only one mode. *mode denotes tonal quality

Exercise #1

Choose one of the tones for your writing voice, and tell the story of your photo – the place you lived – with that tone. E.g. humorous, philosophical etc. Stay consistent throughout.


Introducing mood deals with the emotions the author makes the reader feel in less direct ways – by sounds of the words she uses, the length and rhythm of sentences, the choice of images and their associations.

“Sometimes tone and mood are most effective when they are mismatched.”

Damon Knight; Creating Short Fiction; Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, OH; 1981

Knight’s comments explain the difference between tone and mood better than any other I have read. You can see that both are necessary in your writing.  Tone has a great deal to do with the writer’s voice – preferred style.  Mood is specific to the particular piece and will vary from scene to scene, character to character.

You can use different techniques to set your mood. Consider the difference between long flowing sentences and short choppy ones, a series of words used in a paragraph that have soft sibilant sounds (s, sh, f, soft c’s) and a set that repeat sharp, attacking consonants (hard g, h, k, hard c).

Exercise #2

Using the photo from one of the places you lived (assigned as homework), write a short paragraph describing the place in each of the following moods.

  • The character just received word he’s sold his book. (e.g. the room/building/landscape would appear brighter with light and colors, smell like roses, the sound of feet dancing over the tiles)
  • The character has just visited a dying friend. (e.g. room might appear sterile, empty, )
  • The character has received a threatening phone call. “I’m coming to kill you.” (e.g. shadows are ominous, closets are big enough to hide a killer, suspicious sounds abound)

“The novelist works with the things that pass unobserved by others,

captures them in motion, brings them out into the open.”  Joao Guimaraes Rosa


Setting is about images. Consider the images you choose to include in a scene, out of plethora of possibilities. The reader is set into the story. Does he know where he is: house, mountain? What time of day it is? What season? Where he is located in the setting? e.g. standing in the doorway of a room or in the center of the room. This information provided in word pictures and using the techniques llisted above creates the overall mood you want your reader to experience.

Exercise #3

Write the story of your photo place, making sure you choose your writing mode/tone, the mood you felt when you chose this photo, and the relevant facts of the setting.


Write down a dream you’ve had in preparation for session #5.

NOTE: Session #5 will not be posted until March 3.


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