The next four posts are going to be about tone. Tone is the feeling that the author has towards what he or she is writing about, and this is transferred onto the reader. Think about something that you’ve written in the last little while. Whether this be a paper for class or the story you are working on, there is tone somewhere in it.
Tone is extremely important when you are writing a story. You want your reader to be able to connect to the characters and plot emotionally, and in order to do that, you need to connect to it emotionally. If your tone is fearful, your reader will feel that fear. If your tone is anxious, your reader will get that anxiety. Your tone as the writer will set the mood of the piece.
So how do we make sure we are writing with the tone that we want? There are four main components to tone, hence the four posts. For this post, we are going to be talking about how details contribute to tone.
Let’s say that you are writing a scene where a character is being held hostage by an intimidating captor. I know, my mind is a little bit morbid at the moment. I’ve been working on some dark scenes today.
Let me paint you the picture of this scene:
The ropes binding the character’s hands are cutting into their wrists. Your character wonders if it is cutting off the blood to their hands. Everything around them is dark and they can’t really see clearly. Maybe they’ve been drugged. They can’t see the captor either, but they can hear their voice. It’s deep. They can’t move and they hear a click of a gun.
Okay, there’s one thing that you should notice from this description. I didn’t tell what they character were doing, just elaborate on the scene itself, like a stand still picture. That’s how you know you are using details. Saying that the captor walks around into the character’s sight isn’t a detail. Saying that the thump of their boots sounded like a drum with the pound of the character’s head is a detail.
Okay, the description I gave you was strictly about the details. I mentioned that the room is dark, which creates fear in anyone when combined with a kidnapping. I mentioned that the character couldn’t see the captor so that the reader’s imagination would run wild. I said that the ropes were cutting into their wrists to show that they feel trapped. I said that they were seeing blurry because being drugged means that they aren’t in control. Giving up control, not being able to see what’s coming at you, hearing the threat at hand but not being able to run from it. These are all things that set the tone as terrified.
If I didn’t give you these details, then you might have a completely different picture in your head. You might imagine the captor standing in front of the character. You might imagine that they are in a well lit room. You might imagine them outside (notice I didn’t mention that they were indoors in my description).
All of these little details help get the terrifying picture in your head into the reader’s, or else they might interpret the scene as completely different.
There can also be details in the actions, like if the captor laid a hand on their shoulder harshly. Harshly puts the moving picture into the reader’s mind.
One thing that is off about my description is that I didn’t actually create a scene. I just gave you the details of it. In your own story, you would include dialogue, emotion, actions, etc. Especially emotion. I didn’t give our character a name or identity because I wanted to show you the raw version of details, but when you write, you should make sure you put emotion in it by connecting to the character. You would turn it into a real story, not just an example. But by putting in the right details, you can make the story express the tone you mean it to.
My challenge for you is to pick one of your scenes and highlight all of the details you can. Now chose a tone word that you want the scene to portray. Go through and check to see if the details you have contribute to that tone, and if they don’t, change it. Add in a few more details that will help out.
Look at how your scene changes. Hold onto this scene because in my next post, we are going to improve it even more with the use of diction in tone.
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Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!