Do you know what color glasses you’re wearing when you sit down to write?
For a long time, I struggled with this too.
In writing, we approach our stories from a particular angle that’s driven by our authentic self. The details you capture or exclude create a tone your writing projects–like glasses with a colored lens. That tone could be darkly humorous, serious, or cynical.
Tone is the attitude we take in our writing. It’s closely aligned with perspective.
To understand perspective, and its relationship to tone, try this exercise with a partner:
- Take a picture of a house in your neighborhood and share it with your partner.
- Set a timer for five minutes and write descriptions of that house.
- Next, describe the house as if you’re standing next to a new lover.
- Finally, describe the house as if you’re a soldier who’s just returned from battle.
I bet each description focuses on a slightly different aspect of the house. Those variations come from the character’s lens. Now, notice the similarities between the three descriptions. Those similarities arise from your voice as a writer. The emotional feel of those details is your tone.
Now, share your descriptions with your partner.
How does their lens compare to yours?
Here’s your inner work:
Return to the social media posts I asked you to save. Weed out the cat and kid pictures. Find the ones where you wrote something that truly represents you. Notice the similarities. Are they funny, impassioned, or serious?
That general tone is an element of the real you.
Here’s your outer work:
Identify the authors on your bookshelf whose lens is similar to your own. If nothing sticks out, drop by your local independent bookstore and ask the salesclerk for some recommendations. As you read selected works, underline the sentences that have the most voice. Write a few down. Journal about why this author’s voice works well.
Here’s your writing work:
Now that you have a sense of your lens, figure out what you need to do harness its power. Study the masters, read craft articles, and then write, write, write.
What tone patterns did you notice in your social media posts? Send me an email so I can hear what you learned.
Looking for more voice lessons?
Voice Lesson One: The Courage to Be True
Voice Lesson Two: Be Your Authentic Self