I have had many, many discussions (ahem, arguments) over the years about tone. When I was younger my best friend used to say that I spoke in a certain “tone” when I was irritated and I would argue that I didn’t have a “tone”. For me a “tone” was a nasty inflection in one’s voice, as in my mom saying, “don’t take that tone with me” but now I know better. Now I know that a “tone” is so much more.
As a writer you have to actively set the tone for any story, short or otherwise. The reader needs a sense of what the mood of your story is. Setting the tone might be the way a character communicates or how a character sees the world around them. Sure it still describes how one might speak to another but when it comes to writing “tone” is part of the skeleton of your story.
How effective can tone be? Case in point….text messages. I often get responses from my better half telling me that they can tell how I feel about something by my “tone” in my text. A text…. At first I thought this was ridiculous. How could someone tell by a text message what my “tone” is? But the more I paid attention to how I was feeling when sending certain text messages I realized that they were right…I did have a tone.
A lot of readers will tell you that they didn’t like this book or that but can’t tell you why…my guess is the tone. If you need proof of tone in your own writing, slap it into a text reader and listen. Most text readers are fairly monotone but if you really listen, you will hear the tone still coming through. I started doing this recently and it helps. (It also helps to show you where certain scenes aren’t working)
So while you are laying the groundwork for your next story, don’t forget the tone. It may been silly to worry about it but in the end you will see that setting the right tone just might be half the battle.
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