Tone Talks: Connection and Consistency
If you’re not into linguistics and are concerned about maintaining a solid tone as a writer, this can be intimidating. Personally, many of my older stories alternate haphazardly between a Miltonic Grand Style and a modern young adult voice, whichever was more convenient at the time I wrote it. That can be fine for early drafting, but the trouble comes when you want to make it consistent. People might get turned off if you sound to stuffy and archaic, but you can lose a lot of authenticity if you try to tell it in your modern, everyday voice (unless your novel takes place in a modern, everyday world, which could make this situation a lot easier!).
The solution to the problem of tone varies from writer to writer and novel to novel, but there are things that can help. One is to read more in your genre. Is there a certain work that inspires you? Read it–read it out loud and maybe even copy some of the writing to get a flow for it. Also pay attention to what it is that you really need to keep the tone. You can be elegant without being wordy or flowery. You can also sound convincingly archaic without resorting to out of date terms and spending half of your time researching in a thesaurus for the oldest alternatives possible. Focus on the grammar and syntax of the voice you want, on sentence length and paragraph structure. Look for trends and guidelines! You can do this with any genre.
Lastly, go through your novel page by page and review your tone. It might take a while, but this step will do a lot to help your writing! Look for inconsistencies in style and moments when you stray from the voice that you have now decided on. There’s no big right or wrong here, so long as you keep it consistent and know where to compromise!
Thoughts? Questions? Please let me know, because this is one of the biggest problems in writing that I have encountered, both in my own novels and in others’!