I have to decide on the tone I want for my writing. I’m not sure I know what that means. I do conceptually, but not practically. I have a sad need to define things so that sends me to the Dictionary of Literary Terms. It defines tone as ‘The reflection of a writer’s attitude (especially towards his readers), manner, mood and moral outlook in his work; even, perhaps, the way his personality pervades the work.’ Blimey. This suggests I need an analyst, not a writing mentor. It’s tricky (obviously) because I don’t think I have or want a tone that is straightforward (obviously). My attitude and mood is neither totally black nor fluffy and light. I’m looking for informal, without too much familiarity. I need to communicate layers, rather than absolutes. In my novel I want to laugh at the darker side of life, enjoy the absurdities – but not as an expression of nihilism. The novel must have heart, a positive heart.
John Mullan (How Novels Work) says: ‘’Tone’ is entirely separate from story.’ I sort of agree and sort of don’t. I can see that the basic characters and sequence of events I have in my head could be presented very differently depending on the tone I wish to use. The elements of the supernatural could be made frightening. There are characters who could be genuinely threatening. However, my story is more than this. What am I talking about? Let’s say the theme. The theme is one of positive growth from acceptance of genuine self and connection with others. The story is essentially a happy one that accepts the darker sides of life. (I have another story in my head that is far darker but still has a positive impetus at its heart.) I believe in love and family and community and all that stuff, but I don’t see any of it as very picture book perfect. It’s like my cakes – they usually taste good but they could look a little misshapen and eccentric.
If you are reading this I must apologise for the muddled thinking. I am using the blog to write things out in search of greater understanding. As you can see, I am far from defining clearly the quality of tone I wish to achieve. Even when/if I achieve this, I still need to work out how to adopt this tone in my writing, consistently. This may lie at the crux of my writing challenge. I tend to write without thinking too much. It seems that this will only get me so far. I am going to need to be more conscious, thoughtful, deliberate (like choosing the one exact word that say what I mean rather than going for two or three that are in the right arena). I am going to need to work at it. Sigh.