Pace, Tone, and Tension – II

Posted on Posted in Writing Wednesday

Happy Wednesday! It is that time of the week again when I give you some tips for improving your storytelling skills. Today, as I promised some other time, I'm going to bring back a topic I already began. This would be the second entry on this matter. If you haven't read the first one yet, you can do so right here. Without further ado, let's get right into it! Today we'll be talking about the tone in your prose, and why it is important.

Tone in your writing (or in your prose in general) is not any different from what it is when you speak (even though there are some little variations). Before I explain anything else, keep in mind this idea at every point of this entry: It is not 'what' you say, it is 'how' you say it. However, in writing we do not have intonation, so it comes down to what words you use to say what you want to say. Every word, even if you don't think of it that way, has a deeper sense to itself. This is what defines your tone. Nevertheless, your tone is given by many other factors.

Where Does Tone Comes From?

It is simple! Your tone comes from three different elements, each of them being completely independent from the rest.

  • Your target audience. The first thing you need to define first, before crafting your tone, is what audience are you going to write to. This is important because it will define what words you are allowed to use, and what others not. If you are writing to kids or young teens, it is probably a bad idea to use cursing. In the same order, it is inappropriate to use a childish tone in an adult novel.
  • The genre you are writing. It is completely different thing to write a romance than to write a thriller. If you are describing a woman, for example, in romance, it'd be better to say "Her eyes shone strong like a thousand suns". That sounds kind of sweet, and gives you an idea of beauty. However, if we say instead "Her eyes were dark as the night", that's not necessarily romantic: it's mysterious. It'd be more suitable for a thriller or mystery scene. Still, this different descriptions can be used for indirectly describing your characters, but that's a topic for another entry.
  • You. As simple as that. You are very important to the tone, because it is yours. It doesn't matter how hard you try, how much do you read. There is always something very characteristic about how you say things. No one is ever going to say it exactly the same way you do. Try partnering with a fellow writer, choose an idea, and both develop one or two paragraphs with that idea. Notice how different they both are, despite you used the same concept. That's because there is a lot about you in what you write.

A Thousand Tones in Your Story

Despite being a simple matter, and being defined by you, there is something very important about the tone. I am not going to explain a lot about it now, but I'll do the basics so you can understand what I mean. You, as a human being, have a tone, right? Given your personality and personal experiences, nobody would say things the way you do, right? Well, guess what: so do your characters! Yes, each and every single one of them.

Your characters (whether they are human beings, animals, beasts, random objects), if the talk or convey their feelings, whatever the way, to your reader, then they have a tone. Almighty King of the Realm wouldn't talk the same way a humble farmer would. Their pace would be different, the way they address to other people, the world they use. Everything, because they are completely different people in the context of your story. Therefore, you need to stick to their personalities when you put their thoughts and dialogues into paper.

Whenever you write a novel or a short story, or any other, you are selling something to your reader. You might be selling characters, a message, or perhaps the whole story. Either or, for your reader to "buy it" you need to convince them what you offer is worth it. You need your characters to sound as realistic as possible. In the writing process, you should keep in mind your characters' tones, but not too much. When you get to the revision process, however, you need to make sure every character has the right tone. Everyone is saying what they should say, and how they should say it.

Remember that your characters, just like you, have different ways to reacting to things. If they see something or are told something, you need to put yourself in their shoes. How would this character react? What would they do? Would they do anything at all? All of these are questions you need to keep in mind when working on the tone of your characters.

Why Is Tone So Important?

Tone defines a mood, a setting, a set of feelings and emotions you have, and you want your reader to feel, as well. If you are writing a suspense scene, and the main character is shaking because they don't know what will they find once they open a door, you want your readers to also be afraid of continue reading. You want your readers to embrace the feelings you want them to feel. But in order to achieve that, you need to effectively transmit them to your reader, by using the proper tone, and the right words.

A good idea to improve the tone of your own prose is reading works of the same genre of what you are writing. That will give you ideas of what the tone would look like for that genre in specific. Also, try authors who you feel have similar criteria to you. If you are moved by social subjects and you try to express those thoughts in your prose, then look for writers who also talk about such topics. That way, you'd be able to build and expand your own prose and perfect it.


I hope all of these tips have been useful for you. The third part of this entry, talking about tension, will be coming soon enough, so make sure to follow me on my social networks to stay tuned to it all! As always, leave your comments and thoughts in the comment section below, and I hope to see you again on next week's Writing Wednesday!


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