While working on the list for my current project, I came across additional items that were not included in my original post, "Making a list and checking it twice". I felt these new elements were important enough to be added to my template, so I am creating posts for each of them. These elements are ; Tone and Style. In today’s post I will be discussing the use of Tone and how it affects the overall feel of a story.
The proper Tone can speak volumes!
Every story has a central theme or subject matter, the Tone constitutes the attitude that the author adopts to highlight said theme/subject. In the absence of vocal emphasis, a writer will usually convey Tone through their choice of words, which can come across as serious, humorous, sarcastic, passionate, indifferent, and so on.
The purpose of Tone is to influence the reader’s understanding of the story, how they should feel while they are reading it, in order to better grasp the author’s message or opinion. The Tone therefore helps add atmosphere and life to a piece of literature, by shedding light on character personalities and depth to the setting, thus creating mood.
Furthermore, Tone does not need to be static and can change throughout a story; reflecting the narrator's perspective, following the pace of the action or in order to better fit the story’s mood. It should be noted, that changing Tone should either be done gradually, or when starting a new scene or chapter. Changing Tones too often may also confuse the audience, so it is important to remain consistent.
Authors will set the Tone through the various literary elements at their disposal. The most common of which are:
- Diction: Expressing Tone by paying close attention to their choice of words.
- Syntax; Creating effect with the grammatical arrangement of words.
- Imagery; Describing the scenery in a certain manner, with cues that appeal to any of the senses;
- Details; Informing the reader of important facts, either included or omitted.
In an attempt to better explain Tone, I have put together an example. All of the following instances illustrate the same situation, only using different wording.
“John was walking down the street, making his way through the crowd.”
Our first example is pretty basic. It gives you very simple information; who the character is (John), what he is doing (walking) and where he is (on a crowded street). Even though the phrase is pretty straightforward, you do get a feeling from this statement. The character seems to be in no hurry, nor is there a sense of danger. So in this case, the lack of information is what is setting the Tone.
“John was strolling down the street, casually passing the other people in the crowd.”
See how the ambiance has already changed? By changing “walking” with “strolling”, you already get the sense the character is relaxed and is in a calm situation. This feeling of serenity is further accentuated by replacing “making his way through” with “casually passing”. Furthermore, by adding the section “the other people” , we make the phrase longer, thus making the scene feel slower. Allowing the character to view what is around him also gives the feeling he is enjoying his surroundings.
“Johnathan was stomping down the street, angrily shoving his way through the crowd.”
Doesn’t sound like you would want to cross this guy, now does it? Again, I changed “walking”, this time replacing it with “stomping”. I also changed “making his way through” with “angrily shoving his way through”. These two modifications help make the character sound incredibly irritated. Additionally, changing the characters name from “John” to “Jonathan” makes him sound more serious.
“Jay was running frantically down the street. Zigzagging his way through the mob.”
This example sounds like a snippet from an action movie. By replacing “walking” with “running frantically ”, we give the reader the sense that the character is desperate or in fear for his life. This feeling of urgency is further accentuated by changing “making his way through” with “Zigzagging his way through”. The word “crowd” was replaced with “mob”, which gives the setting a more chaotic feel. And finally, did you notice how changing the characters name from “John” to “Jay” makes him sound younger, or even less serious (along the lines of a street thug).
I discovered that Tone has a significant place in literature, as it allows writers to have better control over the mood of a story and gives readers a better understanding of what the author was trying to portray. I hope this lesson proved as useful to you, as it did to me!
Until next time.