I've been told that you need to create a consistent tone when writing a story, because it shapes how readers perceive the story. Maintaining a consistent tone throughout the story by balancing the needs of the story with the expectations and preferences of your audience ensures a cohesive narrative. Consistency in tone can help create a sense of unity throughout a piece of writing. When the tone is consistent, readers can more easily follow the story and understand its underlying themes and messages.

I wonder if there can be a good reason to shift tone in the middle of your story. If so, or even if that's not the case, how do you do this without alienating your readers?

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    What is your original tone and in what direction are you shifting it?
    – Laurel
    Commented Mar 12, 2023 at 17:23

2 Answers 2


One type of point at which you probably should change tone is after some major event, especially one that massively affects the main characters. The war starts. Or ends and all the soldiers start coming home. The matriarch of the family dies. The main characters get married and start their life together. The main characters move from one country to another. A new captain takes over the ship and changes all the rules. The owner of the factory retires and the new owner takes over.

Another time to change tone is when some temporary but intense thing is happening. During an actual battle in the war. During a house fire. During a burglary.

The change in tone could be temporary, meaning it only lasts for a chapter or two, then either gradually or suddenly reverts. Or it could be a "step change" in the story, with a definite before and after. Or there could even be multiple "eras" in the story, particularly if it is quite long.


The tone can and should follow the story arc. If the happy-go-lucky teens are in a horiffic car accident where one friend dies, the tone needs to darken. In the aftermath of a trauma, their moods are different and their actions are different If you’re following the classic hero’s journey, this is likely the threshold of the transformation, and your readers will expect a different tone.

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