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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Overview Character Development: Part Four: Tone

My apologies for the long delay returning to this workshop. I did not expect to be absent from the blog for a whole year. Hope your writing has been forging ahead. For those  who are just joining the conversation--welcome!

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“Anwara doted on the baby, and until the onset of the child’s strange persistent tantrums, had bloomed with joy.”  The Moorchild by Eloise McGraw

Tone is expressed throughout the story in several ways that need to be a consistent thread in order to wrap the reader into its ambience. It includes the writer’s voice in that it will be consistent with his/her work worldview. It affects the narrator’s personality. Tone includes attitudes among the characters’ voices, the world at large, the genre, the age group, and the physical setting. Basically it affects all atmospheres, whether spoken or silent, direct or implied.

To be effective tone grows organically in response to the motivation stimulus of your character’s background, attitudes, dynamics, and insights as well as purpose.

Tone blends internal and external motivation with action and setting. We’ll discuss tone in setting more thoroughly in a later segment but for now think of some catch phrases from stories or movies that capture the combined ambience of words and location. “It was a dark and stormy night.” “May the force be with you.” “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.” The level of dark, light, serious, frivolous, happy, sad, will edge the tone into the genre and its story question.

For example, in a dialogue; an adult approaches a young child and says, “Did you eat all the cookies?” The tone of voice in the question will set up not only the reply but also the mood of the relationship. Is the question asked with a teasing voice, an angry voice, a confused voice or a disappointed voice? Does either character in the dialogue speak loud or soft or neutral? Whatever combination the author chooses will impact the overall tone of the situation and character both internally and externally.

Use of time boundaries impacts tone. Is the character’s journey in a brief moment, a few hours, a week, month, or century? Is it a calm conversation exploring life’s curiosities or a life or death race?

The tone reaction a character makes can also affect plot links and build tension. Put your young child hero in a campsite where suddenly a skunk walks into the site where he is sitting. Does he try to run or hide or search for his camera? The danger is objective but fear or curiosity is subjective. Both produce insight into the story and a tone to match.

Action Steps:

1.     Recall a time when you felt vulnerable, either as a pre-teen, or teenager, or young adult. Describe that time without using any words that explain how you felt. Convince your reader you were lonely or frightened, sad etc. without mentioning any abstract terms.

2.     Write a one-page story that begins, “Nothing of real importance happened that day,” and then reveal through the thoughts or actions of a character during a day’s sequence of unimportant events that something important did happen internally.

3.     Practice writing motivation sentences. Write a sentence about an action. (The car screeched around the corner.) Follow it with a sentence about your character. (Bill looked up, saw who the driver was and began to run)

Share: One of your motivation sentences.

Read deep, marcy

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