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The Tone Of A Story (1 Viewer)

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KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
Okay so I have been posting on the craft thread and after posting the first 3 paragraphs of my first chapter, I realized the tone I am giving is off. Its only 3 paragraphs so obviously its got gonna tell you a whole lot about the story itself, but seemed like it gave a vibe I wasn't fully going for. I watched a video about the first page/ chapter and how important it is to get the tone right because then it sets up an expectation for the story. If it gives the impression that its something that's its not...readers will be confused and disappointed. I a trying to weave different elements together, and I want it to have an "unsettling" vibe but at the end of the day its a coming of age story. I have a lot of ideas so its hard to stay grounded in what I am trying to accomplish. I want to use dark imaginary and more abstract ideas so it isn't an "everyday" coming age story.
How do you go about setting a tone, and meshing different genres/ themes in your story? Do you ever have a hard time keeping consistent in your themes and ideas? I know I do lol
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
This is why I'm concentrating so hard on the first page of my novel. It's the tone setter. For my story, the character is fatalistic so the tone has to have gravitas and lots of mood. I'll be easing that off a little in the next scene though.
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
This is why I'm concentrating so hard on the first page of my novel. It's the tone setter. For my story, the character is fatalistic so the tone has to have gravitas and lots of mood. I'll be easing that off a little in the next scene though.
I think I'm going to completely rearrange things and play with it some more. Once I get it down (for the most part) I think I will have a clearer vision of what I want for the whole story. I am changing a lot of ideas and I feel it's a good move. Right now I'm taking a break because I'm overthinking it and it's not making me enjoy writing or the story.
How is it going btw? You think youre getting it close to how you want/need it to be?
 

Joker

Senior Member
This is why I'm concentrating so hard on the first page of my novel. It's the tone setter. For my story, the character is fatalistic so the tone has to have gravitas and lots of mood. I'll be easing that off a little in the next scene though.

This is also the reason I'm opening with a moody scene of Corrit's daily life, rather than just immediately hopping into the investigation. The reader should know the tone Corrit is going to have during the whole ordeal.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I think I'm going to completely rearrange things and play with it some more. Once I get it down (for the most part) I think I will have a clearer vision of what I want for the whole story. I am changing a lot of ideas and I feel it's a good move. Right now I'm taking a break because I'm overthinking it and it's not making me enjoy writing or the story.
How is it going btw? You think youre getting it close to how you want/need it to be?
Not quite yet. I keep reading it and some sections feels right and other sections just isn't quite right. I'll be concentrating on the first sentence once I feel it's consistent with the tone I want. I may ease up on some of the alliteration too. I like it and it could be ok. I've read it so many times now I'm dizzy.
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
Not quite yet. I keep reading it and some sections feels right and other sections just isn't quite right. I'll be concentrating on the first sentence once I feel it's consistent with the tone I want. I may ease up on some of the alliteration too. I like it and it could be ok. I've read it so many times now I'm dizzy.
My head starts to hurt and I start to get frustrated after I awhile..so I'm like break time should do me some good (hopefully)
I was thinking about writing a shirt story but I'm so focused on my current one it's hard for me to just suddenly switch over...
How many words you got for the tone setter (so far)?
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
My head starts to hurt and I start to get frustrated after I awhile..so I'm like break time should do me some good (hopefully)
I was thinking about writing a shirt story but I'm so focused on my current one it's hard for me to just suddenly switch over...
How many words you got for the tone setter (so far)?
Approaching 1000. I'm not done with it quite yet though. The next scene doesn't need as much gravitas so should be easier to write. It's trying to get that snarl and grit with fatalistic undertones that's pushing me hard.
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
Approaching 1000. I'm not done with it quite yet though. The next scene doesn't need as much gravitas so should be easier to write. It's trying to get that snarl and grit with fatalistic undertones that's pushing me hard.
How much of your story do you have plotted out?
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
I have the bigger picture mapped out in my head but the narrative that drives through it isn't even in its infancy.
I'm reworking everything I have written. So I am taking a step back before I bet back into it. But I was curious to see how you plot your ideas as a whole and not just tone and craft
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
I watched a video about the first page/ chapter and how important it is to get the tone right because then it sets up an expectation for the story. If it gives the impression that its something that's its not...readers will be confused and disappointed.

Tone can be a tricky one, especially when kicking off a new story.

Dumb as this may sound, when I was younger I had some luck ignoring the flaws in the opening and pushing on until I got to the meat of the thing. Once you've gotten the rhythm and the voice down you can return with the familiar and rewrite your first page. Seems counterintuitive...but this is a writing board. Other members will probably cut you more slack than the reading public when it comes to the launch process.

I a trying to weave different elements together, and I want it to have an "unsettling" vibe but at the end of the day its a coming of age story. I have a lot of ideas so its hard to stay grounded in what I am trying to accomplish. I want to use dark imaginary and more abstract ideas so it isn't an "everyday" coming age story.

Very rarely do you see unsettling pulled off in the beginning. Reason being, that sense of unease - the kind of a permeating wrongness necessary to make things feel off - is more often than not the collected weight of cues and clues scattered throughout a work. Tension builds these components until they approach critical mass. Shock, horror, or disgust can come off at a moment's notice, however, and sometimes may prove an acceptable substitute.

Say your Narrator/MC is being pursued by a monster.

You could open with them hiding in their closet as it rattles the door to their bedroom, but if this is your lead-in the chances are we aren't familiar enough with the character to be invested in their survival, nor do we have sufficient reference for the danger. For all we know it could be their annoying younger sibling, or the cat, or an overpowered air conditioning unit (I once lived in a place where the A/C kicking on would sometimes slam doors...it was weird). We haven't stewed long enough in a world where the whatsit pursuing them is a viable threat.

Now...same story, but suppose one fine summer night they see a strange form moving in the woods behind their house. The next day they're walking nearby and encounter an unfamiliar odor and weird noises. There are scratches on the trees and flattened undergrowth where something has been bedding down at night, and scattered nearby are the bones of small animals. Unsettling, but not beyond reason for a medium-to-large predator.

The next week they find unrecognizable footprints in the lawn. One night they see something drinking from the neighbor's kiddie pool. When they shine a light at it, the thing screams and vaults an eight-foot privacy fence, heading for the woods. Still weird, now moreso because this doesn't fit the profile of a cougar/bear/wolf/whatever.

Next couple of days are quiet.

Then they find signs on their back porch. Then a pet goes missing.

Then the prints are on the ground by the first-floor windows, accompanied by tears in the screens and deep scratches in the siding. One night they see this something in silhouette when they go downstairs for a glass at a water in the dark hours of the morning. This time there's enough light to pick out the eyes. It watches for a few minutes, then disappears.

A few days later the prints are in the kitchen.

Then you can justify the necessary dread of your MC huddled in the closet with a butcher knife and a cell phone while the door rattles softly in the frame. By this point you've established the presence of the danger if not its true nature. You've hinted that whatever's out there in the night has become fixated on the MC, and that the MC is putting together the pieces and recognizing the peril. You might get a confrontation in this scene, you might not, but you've built to a point where things have enough heft to be compelling either way.

Which I suppose is a long way of saying that you should put more muscle behind laying the groundwork for the unsettling bits rather than coming out swinging with the nightmare fuel.

How do you go about setting a tone, and meshing different genres/ themes in your story? Do you ever have a hard time keeping consistent in your themes and ideas? I know I do lol

Tone sets itself through the characters and the way they see the world. As for meshing theme/genre...life is comprised of everything. So long as the results are cut from the same cloth you can very easily swing action, horror, romance, and humor in one world.

Keeping a constant voice helps with that immensely. If you've established your band of heroes as Tier I high-speed professional tactical professionals, your guys may crack jokes and hassle each other in the briefing room, but they'll cut that off pretty sharp when it's time to go to work. Medical experts won't suddenly hold up short when it comes to discussing conditions or anatomical components that'd make a Baptist preacher blush. Precociously over-intelligent children are neither believable nor entertaining, and never to the degree their writers sometimes think.

If you've got a good handle on your characters and their circumstances theme will sort itself out naturally.
 
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vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
A few days later the prints are in the kitchen.
Did you feel some particular need to do this to me at 3 AM? It's cruel, I tell you!

Your note about caring about the character made me think about what I do. I'm not really concerned about establishing the tone of the story, but setting the voice of the narrator. The opening tone isn't required to be the tone of the bulk of the work. It's quite common for horror to start with a bright, cheery tone in order to set the contrast between your real life and what could happen if bad things begin to intrude.

And for goodness sakes, don't make the pet disappear, unless it's set to reappear. Make the pet the hero. As the monster stalks the child and forces them into a corner, the cat launches from the top shelf of the closet and claws its eyes out, coughs a hairball into its mouth, and the thing chokes to death. Or the dog comes out from under the bed, pees on its foot, and as it turns out, urine melts it.

We have a door in the house that closes by itself. I can't find a problem with the hinge arrangement. They're square. The former owner died of a massive heart attack on the property. I call it the haunted bedroom.
 
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KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
I want things to come across as "normal" at first a kid just dealing with his parents divorce and new school...but there is always that background of the suicides cuz I don't want the reader to forget but I don't want it to be the main thing they focus on. I want people to get to know the character and his surrounds and get a bit comfortable before "shit hits the fan"
I want the beginning to be interesting but I don't want it to give off the wrong impression either...
Yes! Tired of horror just killing animals to kill animals. They should be their own character and can be heros!
 

Joker

Senior Member
I want things to come across as "normal" at first a kid just dealing with his parents divorce and new school...but there is always that background of the suicides cuz I don't want the reader to forget but I don't want it to be the main thing they focus on. I want people to get to know the character and his surrounds and get a bit comfortable before "shit hits the fan"
I want the beginning to be interesting but I don't want it to give off the wrong impression either...
Yes! Tired of horror just killing animals to kill animals. They should be their own character and can be heros!

Alien was way ahead of the game with Jonesy.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
How do you go about setting a tone, and meshing different genres/ themes in your story? Do you ever have a hard time keeping consistent in your themes and ideas?
I don't consciously think about tone. There's a story rattling around in my head and I tell it how I hear it. In the beginning, I started writing a story that I myself would like to read. That was my only criteria. Eventually, I was told that I needed to mold it into a genre. I spent hours and hours.....and hours looking for the perfect genre. I never found it. Is it a blend? Perhaps. There is some crime, there is some romance, there is some slice of life, there is some comedy, there is some history. The one thing that sets the tone and binds all of this together is the theme. A lesson that I want to teach through storytelling. It is always consistent, and what is more, I am constantly amazed at how many times I can find an opportunity to weave it into the dialogue or plot. It's something so prevalent in our lives that we don't always realize it's there, but it forms the basis of our decision-making. It's about what we want, and how we go about getting it.
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
Did you feel some particular need to do this to me at 3 AM? It's cruel, I tell you!

You rang?

Your note about caring about the character made me think about what I do. I'm not really concerned about establishing the tone of the story, but setting the voice of the narrator. The opening tone isn't required to be the tone of the bulk of the work. It's quite common for horror to start with a bright, cheery tone in order to set the contrast between your real life and what could happen if bad things begin to intrude.

Exactly. Good horror (to me, anyway) works smoothest when it begins with either the commonplace or the mundane. You need that sense of the familiar to set against the nightmare. Otherwise the world is already a terrible and crappy place, so what makes the addition of this new element so special? If you're working in a world already overrun with the undead...how do you ratchet that up? Zombies calling about your car's factory warranty, maybe, or undead-rights activists, but really...if the the worst that could happen happened yesterday you tend to be limited with your options.

And for goodness sakes, don't make the pet disappear, unless it's set to reappear. Make the pet the hero. As the monster stalks the child and forces them into a corner, the cat launches from the top shelf of the closet and claws its eyes out, coughs a hairball into its mouth, and the thing chokes to death. Or the dog comes out from under the bed, pees on its foot, and as it turns out, urine melts it.

I like to think said pet was smart enough to get an idea of the monster and nope it out of there. Sometimes you just gotta recognize when something's above your pay grade, you know?

We have a door in the house that closes by itself. I can't find a problem with the hinge arrangement. They're square. The former owner died of a massive heart attack on the property. I call it the haunted bedroom.

Probably my screwed-up mind, but I have the sudden mental image of the door as the monster - see it lurking in the trees. See it trying to hide in the yard. See it standing outside the window. Hear it coming up the stairs.

I'll show myself out now.
 
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vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Probably my screwed-up mind, but I have the sudden metal image of the door as the monster - see it lurking in the trees. See it trying to hide in the yard. See it standing outside the window. Hear it coming up the stairs.
Bill Murray as the door: "Nothing to worry about here. Just an innocent door. No, I'm not closer than I was last time you looked, that's just an optical illusion. You might want to put me in your house. I'm a very good door."

Old Boy Scout campfire story, somewhat abridged:

A kid is dared to stay in a supposedly haunted mansion overnight. At midnight, he hears noise from upstairs, He climbs the stairs all the way to the fourth floor, and hears a tapping, shaking sound from a room at the end of the hall. He continues to investigate. On a pedestal in the middle of the room is a coffin. It shakes again and come off the pedestal, the end where feet would be inside down on the floor, then it moves toward him. He runs back down the hall, and can hear it follow. He runs down the stairs, and as he's running down the third-floor hallway, he can hear it thumping down the stairs. He runs down the next set of stairs and down the next hallway. All the time the noise of pursuit is getting louder, closer. Finally, he reaches the first floor, turns, and the coffin is almost down the stairs, right behind him!

Desperate, he has an idea. He reaches in his pockets and pulls out a package of Vicks Cough Drops and throws them with all his might .... and they stop the coffin!
 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
I don't consciously think about tone. There's a story rattling around in my head and I tell it how I hear it. In the beginning, I started writing a story that I myself would like to read. That was my only criteria. Eventually, I was told that I needed to mold it into a genre. I spent hours and hours.....and hours looking for the perfect genre. I never found it. Is it a blend? Perhaps. There is some crime, there is some romance, there is some slice of life, there is some comedy, there is some history. The one thing that sets the tone and binds all of this together is the theme. A lesson that I want to teach through storytelling. It is always consistent, and what is more, I am constantly amazed at how many times I can find an opportunity to weave it into the dialogue or plot. It's something so prevalent in our lives that we don't always realize it's there, but it forms the basis of our decision-making. It's about what we want, and how we go about getting it.
I just don't want it to come off one way then do a dramatic shift in tone that is off putting. I am probably over thinking it. I should just write what I want to write and I know I can write. I am probably forcing myself to write things I don't need to. I am starting over and reworking my ideas. Going back to original ideas...keeping similar ideas I've already written. I am going to work on connecting ideas I have for now. (Lol doing some plotting to help guide me)
 
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Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I just don't want it to come off one way then do a dramatic shift in tone that is off putting. I am probably over thinking it. I should just write what I want to write and I know I can write. I am probably forcing myself to write things I don't need to. I am starting over and reworking my ideas. Going back to original ideas...keeping similar ideas I've already writing. I am going to work on connect ideas I have for now. (Lol doing some plotting to help guide me)
So in your mind, do you hear a tone that you like? If yes then just keep on with that tone. I think you are on the right track if you just write, and exactly what you say...DON'T OVERTHINK IT. Don't force yourself to do anything, it has to be natural. Other than if you are not motivated to write at all, sometimes then you have to force yourself a bit.

Do you have a process to capture your ideas? I know that for me keeping myself happily writing and not being distracted with working out major plot pieces when I'm trying to stay relaxed and in my voice(tone), It helps for me to capture my ideas for the plot and document them in some way so I can put that aside as I write. I think you said you were going to use a Microsoft template to organize your ideas. You may need something more dynamic, so you can link the dots. A basic pegboard and some sticky notes that you can move around works. I do color-coded ones, yellow for characters, blue for actions, green for settings, pink for challenges, etc. Then I move them around to play with different scenarios.

I found an old thread where some of our novelists share their process to organize ideas. Some of these organizational tools may help you with staying in tone.

 

KeganThompson

Staff member
Board Moderator
As a knew writer I my have "pansted" a little too hard. Lol. I didn't keep myself grounded enough and kinda went everywhere and by the time I go to the main turning point I was over it and wasn't for sure exactly what I wanted. I do not regret it tho, it really helped me get into writing again and learn about my process. (Still learning) It also gave me practice so starting over my writing is already better than the first beginning I wrote. I am dumping a bunch of ideas for scenes I wanna write in google docs, I did get sticky notes and note books and even a printer to help me organize my ideas. I have a pretty good idea of what I want for the first chapter so I'm going to work on that while dump-piling some ideas and figure out how I wanna arrange them and make them connect and what I need to fill in.
I will check out that link. Thank you!
 
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