One of the most important strategies for a writer is to set the tone for his work as quickly and as accurately as possible. As a screenwriter, I make it a rule to set the tone for my script in the very first scene. When I write a novel or a memoir, I make it happen in the first chapter.
If you want a master class in setting the proper tone for a story, just read the opening chapter of “Bleak House.” Charles Dickens describes London under a thick ooze of fog. The fog is not just physical, but the central metaphor for a broken court system run by heartless, petty bureaucrats.
Ruchama Feuerman, whose last novel, In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist, we greatly admired and reviewed here, has published Bina Lobell’s Super Secret Diary, a book for children. And she successfully sets the tone in the first few pages.