I apologize for the delay in getting this out, especially after the popularity of Tone Talks: Your World, but finally summer has slowed down to a pace manageable enough for me to open my computer and get to work! So let’s get to it: Tone Talks: Your Readers’ World!
You might have created the perfect fictional universe. You could have everything figured out, down to your characters’ smallest tics, and when you’re writing and editing you might be completely swallowed by it. But no matter how flawless your creation, your readers will not automatically fall in love with it after reading the first page. The conversion has to happen somewhere, and you need to be the one to carry it out. I’m talking about the power of tone: the writer’s ability to communicate to readers in a way they can relate to, and from there bridge the gap between what is real and what is fictional.
Your readers want to be sucked into your world, but it won’t happen without some work. You need to introduce it to them in a language they understand so that they can read without feeling intimidated or distracted by an imposing grand writing style. This is especially important for stories told in the first person. Your narrator is speaking directly to the readers through the book and needs to have a voice that anyone can understand. Moreover, the narrator needs to sound like a real person.
If this intimidates you, one thing that has helped me a lot over the past few years is journalling–blogging and letter-writing is good too. Write about your life in your words from your point of view. Pretend you’re talking. Don’t be shy about it but, but try to be open and descriptive! Afterwards, you can review your writing and take notes on it. How much slang did you use? Were there any words or phrases that you used a lot? Did you focus more on your own thoughts or on events and settings in your life? For a more exciting exercise, you can try writing a personal essay or journal entry from a character’s point of view. Read it out loud afterwards for a unique view of your character’s individual voice and how natural it sounds to modern readers.
We’ve already established the benefits of using tone to enhance your fictional world and now the importance of using language that your readers can relate to and understand, but how do we connect them together to use a strong and powerful tone that is also easy for readers to get into? I’ll get into that next time with the final of my three part Tone Talks series: Tone Talks: Bridging the Gap.