My mom is almost 70 years old. For most of her life there were no computers, e-mail, Facebook or any of the other technical advances that our generation was born into. When someone needed to get ahold of you they called the “house phone” and hopefully your brother or sister was not on the phone at the time or the caller would get a busy signal and have to “wait” until the phone was free. (Don’t think for a second that “call waiting” changed that because we all learned to ignore the beeping in our ear when someone else tried to call in) And when someone needed to have an actual conversation they had to actually meet face to face for lack of texting, blogging or IM-ing. For folks like my mom technology is both good and bad for all sorts of reasons.
When Mom discovered e-mail and Facebooking she waded into it with the caution of a bomb disposal team. She started by texting “hi” and waiting for a response and then she graduated on to actual sentences. Now, she over texts, meaning that often, while having a conversation with her, she will actually talk over me by texting before I can answer her first question. But perhaps the most annoying thing that my Mom does, and no one can seem to make her stop, is messaging in all caps.
I don’t know what it is about my Mom’s generation but they all text in caps at some point. Does my Mom realize that it makes me feel like she is yelling at me? She probably doesn’t. Does she realize that texting in caps conveys a tone? Nope, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t get that either…but I do and therein lay the point of this column. As writers we have to watch our tone.
We can convey a “tone” with the way we write. My Mom does with her all caps but writers do it also in various ways. Tone can be found in the way a character speaks or in the actions he/she takes. Often times we can change a characters tone and never even realize it until someone else points it out. My spouse and I have a long running conversation going on about the “tone” I often take with our kids…I say things like, “that’s not what I mean” or “they misunderstand” a lot when if I just listened to my spouse I would realize that often what I say comes out in a tone that does not convey my true emotion. This can easily happen within your writing too.
So remember…when you are building those characters or giving them dialog watch your (or rather their) tone within the story. You don’t want your characters or your story misunderstood.
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