Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Victoria Lucia

How to Write Tone Into Your Film, with Movie Examples

Write Tone Into Your Film

With Movie Examples

People always talk about tone in screenwriting, but we don't often talk about how to practically create it. The dramatic tone is one of the trickier storytelling elements. It's not something you write out but an aspect of a script that emerges as an amalgamation of other parts. So, how do you write between the lines? Keep reading! Today, I'm talking about how to create a consistent tone in your film with movie examples!

With one click

Export a perfectly formatted traditional script.

Try SoCreate for free!

Write Like This...
...Export To This!

What is tone in a story? 

Tone can best be described as a mood, attitude, or atmosphere that your script exudes. It can also be described as the "feel" of the movie. Pretty much any adjective could be used to describe the tone of a movie. The tone could be described as dark in "The Dark Knight," written by Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer, and Jonathan Nolan. "The Muppets," created by Jim Henson, might be described as lighthearted or as having a comedic tone.

Examples of Dramatic Tone in Movies

Any genre film provides easy-to-understand examples of tone because the fundamental emotions the writers want their audience to feel are the same. A film noir movie gives off feelings of moodiness, shadows, and deception. A horror feature film has a central emotion of dread, anticipation, and the feeling of something being off. A comedy might be lighthearted, warm, and caring. These are generalizations that won't be true for every movie in these respective genres. The genre can help imply tone, but it can't do all the heavy lifting by itself. Other elements of a script need to be worked on to create tone.

How to Add Tone to Your Script

Tone is crafted in a couple of different ways, mainly via character, setting, and how things are described.


How a central character acts and speaks can influence the tone, especially when juxtaposed with the setting. Think of Cheryl Blossom in "Riverdale," created by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Cheryl's attitude and way of talking are very "teen pop culture," which plays an interesting contrast to Riverdale's old-timey feeling location. It creates an implication of a town that's stuck in the past, while characters, like Cheryl, are eager for a modern way of life. This is an instance where character and setting are interacting to invoke an idea through the tone.


You don't need to extensively describe the setting, lighting, and color scheme in your screenplay to invoke tone. You can more subtly imply tone in scene description through the way the characters interact with the environment. Locations have feelings. A beach might feel relaxing, a bedroom could feel cozy, and a library may feel structured and studious. Pay attention to the scene locations you're choosing, or watch for these cues in some of your favorite films. There might be an opportunity to play with the tone of a scene by having an expected conversation take place in an expected location, vs. playing against expectations by having characters have an unexpected conversation occur in an inappropriate place.

How you describe things

You have the power to influence the tone through how you write your scenes. Is your script about a group of teenaged slackers? Show that by using language or phrases that read as irreverent and speak to pop culture. You can give your script color and feeling through the words you choose to use.

As you can see, the tone in screenwriting is essential but impossible to attribute to just one element of a screenplay. Tone is created when various aspects of the writing's characters, setting, and phrasing all interact. These elements also work with the genre of the film to further influence the feeling.

Tone isn't something that you should feel you need to nail in your first draft. Many writers wait until after they've written a couple of drafts before addressing the matter of the tone of their script. When examining tone in your screenplay, consider what you want the audience to feel at various points. Remember, tone isn't what you explicitly say; it's invoked with what you show and how you show it. Happy writing!

You may also be interested in...

Script Writing Examples for Almost Every Part of a Traditional Screenplay

Examples of Screenplay Elements

When you first start screenwriting, you’re eager to go! You’ve got a great idea, and you can’t wait to type it up. In the beginning, it can be hard to get the hang of how different aspects of a traditional screenplay should look. So, here are five script writing examples for key parts of a traditional screenplay! Title page: Your title page should have as minimal info as possible. You don’t want it to look too cluttered. You should be sure to include the TITLE (in all caps), followed by “Written by” on the next line, followed by the writer’s name below that, and contact info on the lower left-hand corner. It should ...

Examples of Internal and External Conflict in a Story

Examples of External and Internal Conflict in a Story

Conflict is inevitable in life. It's part of being human. And that's why conflict in fiction can also be used to create powerful stories. Conflict is often the catalyst for change, and we want to see a change in a character arc in any given story. When issues arise, there are two main types of conflict: external and internal. External conflict occurs between people or groups. Internal conflict occurs within a person or group. Strong screenplays and novels are built off the interplay of compelling conflict, both internal and external. A story with only external conflict might feel shallow and full of action just for action's sake ...

Add Emotion to Your Screenplay

How to Add Emotion to Your Screenplay

Do you ever find yourself working on your screenplay and asking, “where is the emotion?” “Will anyone feel anything when they watch this movie?” It happens to the best of us! When you’re focused on structure, getting from plot point A to B, and making all of the overall mechanics of your story work, you can find your script missing some emotional beats. So today, I’m going to explain some techniques so you can learn how to add emotion to your screenplay! You can infuse emotion into your script through conflict, action, dialogue, and juxtaposition, and I’m going to teach you how ...