Tag Archives: tone

14.16: Your Setting is a Telegraph

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Margaret, and Howard

Your setting can quickly tell the reader what kind of a story they’re reading, and in this episode we’ll talk about how we make that happen. Think of it as the “establishing shot” principle from film making, expanded to cover whatever worldbuilding details we choose to reveal first.

Liner Notes: Here are the Schlock Mercenary Book 19 prologues Howard described, complete with the footnotes which make fun of prologues.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson


Write an opening. You can start from scratch, or re-open something you’re already working on. Write a half page, and with three concrete details establish the tone. Now rewrite, keeping the dialog the same, and use different details to telegraph a different tone.

Terminal Alliance, by Jim Hines

Writing Excuses 7.49: Beginnings Revisited

We haven’t discussed beginnings this in a while, and when we did, we summed it up with “in late, out early.” Now we’re going to talk about what needs to be present when you’re “in.” We talk about tone, and how the tone you set in your beginning is a promise made to your reader, using examples from George R.R. Martin and David Brin. We also talk about how useful (and how dangerously trite) a labeled prologue can be, and how important it is to establish a setting, especially in genre fiction.

This episode appears out of order with something else we recorded which we refer to, specifically a piece Mary is working on. Tantalizing, yes? Here is the episode you probably wanted to hear first.


Start a new story. Give us character, place, and sense of tone. Do it one sentence, and do it within 13 lines (which is what typically appears on the first page of a manuscript.)

The Green Glass Sea, by Ellen Klages, narrated by Julie Dretzen