I was reminded of the importance of tone the other day, when a friend mentioned on facebook how much she hated a particular song (see video below). I clicked on it and had to laugh. The girl can sing but my-oh-my…what a terrible song.
My work-in-progress is, I hope, a funny/serious book. While writing the first draft, I had to work to maintain a certain lightness of tone and it was more difficult than I expected it to be, especially around the middle where things in general tend to get a little scary for a writer (I got this Novel Chart from this post by Sonje Jones--it’s brilliant)
I found that I had to be careful what books I read that year–reading a dense, downery book (even a highly acclaimed one) sucked all the fun out of my typing fingers. So I re-read some lighthearted favorites, PG Wodehouse, Richard Russo’s Straight Man, Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder books. Of course I read some new books (it was a freakin’ year after all) but I had to be careful. I have a stack of books that I bought and started before I realized their fun-suckeriness. They’re still waiting for me, accusingly I might add, on a table in the bedroom.
Now that I’m going back through and fixing things up in my book, eventually tone is something I’ll have to evaluate. A falter in tone is one of those “you know it when you see it” things in other people’s books.* I just hope I’ll be able to see it in mine as well.
* One of my critique partners (whom you’ll notice I do not name here, so if and when you read this, Critique Partner X, don’t be angry) had a serious scene in which her characters had to get into a car with leather seats on a hot day. So, in this beautifully written, tender scene she described the sound that their damp flesh made on the seat as “farty.” My tone antennae fairly quivered with outrage. I think I managed to convince her that she simply could not use that word in that scene. I’m not certain, however. You see, she’s French, and after some of our discussions about bidet towels, I suppose I’m never 100% certain what she’ll do next. Haha!
And finally, here’s the cheesy serial-killer love song that inspired this post. Obviously, it’s very personal to this young woman, but I’m sorry. Too bad. Anyone who can keep a straight face while singing, “You’re going to catch a cold from the ice inside your soul” is just asking for shit.