Story Essentials: The Importance of Tone

I recently saw The Little Mermaid the Musical. In case you don’t know, The Little Mermaid is my favorite movie of all time. To this day I can’t watch it without getting ALL the chills and feels.

Long story short, I didn’t like the musical. It was fine. I give it a solid C minus. Major points were taken off namely because it was juvenile as hell. Had I known that going in, it would have been better. However, I went in thinking it would be more like The Lion King, which was BOSS. So…expectations were high. In reality, I get a smorgasbord of campy, juvenile, low-budget, and overacting. This is coming from a rabid fan of the franchise. My sister gave it a B, but we were on the same page. If nothing else, I was hoping the tone of the musical would match the tone of the movie. Nope. Not even close. Still like it better than Cats, but that’s another story. 

It got me thinking though: tone is everything. As far as the musical went, I was disappointed almost immediately. I think to anyone who knows me, it goes without saying that I like the darker side of everything – especially when we’re dealing with fairy tales, whose very origins are extremely dark across the board – says the girl with 15 fairy tale anthologies (no joke). ^_^ 

So, I recently finished the latest round of editing for “Winter’s Siren.” (pause for cheers) Yes, it’s very exciting. I’m also working with the cover designer later this month. I can not freaking wait!! But whilst on the topic of tone, from the very beginning of that story, it’s fairy tale-like and dark. 

Setting the mood right away helps me out immensely while I’m writing. I feed off that energy, you know. I want EVERYTHING to be that awesome and magical out of the gate!!

In any case, it got me looking at some of my past projects. How was the tone in those stories? Was it there from page one? Did I lose my way after a few chapters? Because really. An inquiring mind wants to know.

I love the tone in my WIP “Whisper” for example. It’s dark and eerie and fun. NO REST FOR THE WICKED also had a tone that grabbed me right away. Why shouldn’t I be grabbed by everything I write? When I think about stories that have fallen, the tone didn’t hold or the right mood wasn’t set to begin with. Sure that wasn’t all that was wrong with those things, but it’s part of it. 

Sure, it puts pressure on some other things. What happens if I start a story and I’m not grabbed right away? WHAT HAPPENS?! Do I drop the story or do I give it time? Where’s the line? Do I treat books I write like books I read? Interesting now or bust?

I’m reading a book right now called HOW TO HANG A WITCH. I know little about it. Right now, nothing dark or interesting has happened. There’s a klutzy girl (a trope I HATE), yet…I’m really digging it right now. The tone is sarcastic and there’s an edge to it. Like I know something crazy is going to happen. I have no proof, because I barely even read the blurb for this before picking it up, but I know it. I bring this up to say, conveying tone is almost energetic. Even though nothing has happened that’s even remotely interesting, I just really like the vibe. I like the voice. I like the writing style.

You can tell a reader all the right things, but if you, as the writer, don’t infuse the tone you’re trying to convey in your words, it’s just not going to be there. Like giving something a historical feel is more than having a chick in a long dress run around a palace shouting “I think thouest are making fun of me!” The writer is in that historical world. It’s infused in every page, and we can feel it.

In my last vampire book (yep, that again), I have this guy named Ares. The second he’s on the page, he’s oozing SO MUCH awesomeness, and this is before he even says a word. It gives me chills just thinking about it. Seriously, I love him that much. And because I love him so much and see him so vividly, the reader can sense his awesomeness right away.

I’m thinking HOW TO HANG A WITCH will be a good example of a story that turns out to be awesome despite starting off in a very overdone, unimaginative, and tropey way. Because like, I said, it’s still interesting. Great things must be on the way.

Maybe it sounds crazy – to say that energy can be felt from the writer, through the computer, through the printers, to my hands, but it’s true.

Just thinking aloud. 😀

8 Responses to Story Essentials: The Importance of Tone

  1. I love the title – How to Hang a Witch. Can’t wait to hear if it holds everything you expect it to. I hate reading books only to have the tone switch around or not fit or even be so wishy-washy that it never grabs to begin with. There can be surprises in the tone (sudden switches) but even this has to be there already like a background fog…you can feel it coming. Sorry, the musical wasn’t all you’d hoped it to be. Glad to hear you’re coming out of the cave soon 🙂

    • People have been comparing it to The Craft, which is in my top 3 most favorite movies. I’ll definitely talk about it when I finish it. ^_^ Can’t wait to do my last round of editing!! 😀

  2. Good to know about the musical version of The Little Mermaid! I also love the movie, but I’m not familiar with the stage version. And now I don’t need to be. 😉

    Tone is definitely important, especially since I don’t always want to be reading all the Super Serious things. Rarely do I put a book down once I start it, but if something doesn’t sit well with me right away (or if it’s sci-fi that takes itself too seriously, which is one of my pet peeves), I’ll give it up, especially since I never feel like I have enough time to read.

    • Haha, yes, the best thing about seeing it is that now I’ll stop wanting to see it.

      Right?! I totally have to be in the right mood for something serious. It’s definitely not something I gravitate toward either. Why is there never enough time to read?! Not having to sleep would solve a lot of my problems. 😀

  3. I didn’t see Little Mermaid when it was on Broadway–I liked the movie enough, but you know, Beauty and the Beast girl here. Tone is so important in a book–it signals the reader what kind of book it is, how the story will unfold,

    • I saw Beauty & the Beast the musical – it was awhile ago, but I don’t remember having a single problem with it. It’s amazing the random things I learn about writing when I go to the theatre.

Hi! ^_^