Learning Tonality and Style

On reviewing the last post, it came to me that I must highlight the fact that I am only starting out on this journey of garnering the mantle of ‘Fiction Author’ for myself.

I am no great authority, and aside from some work as a technical writer I am not writing from a position of much experience.

I sincerely hope that in my enthusiasm to share my experiences as they happen, I don’t come across as some Johnny-come-lately who thinks he knows everything. That would be tacky, to say the least.

I sincerely hope that any more experienced writers who see something they disagree with here will consider themselves as having free license to pull me aside in the comments and give me a clip round the ear, if required.

Now, Helena Khan brought up an interesting question after the previous post, asking about how I keep an even tone, taking into account emotional states influenced by fatigue and so on.

I found this hard to do, to be honest.

Over the last year or so of writing The Road Out, our family has been through a devastating array of drama and crises, I kid you not.

The first thing I learned about maintaining tone is to analyze my mood and emotional state carefully, every day before I open the document.

When I was at the main composition stage, the turmoil of the times influenced the story arcs themselves, to be honest.

I think we, as writers, have a privileged position in this regard.

We get to take advantage of our emotions and throw our feeling into the keyboard, venting our frustrations as we do.

I recall having to do the exact opposite as a performer; throwing myself around the drum-kit like I was having the time of my life when I was, in fact, exhausted, depressed and miserable sometimes.

People in customer service go through the same thing, do they not? Standing there smiling into the face of somebody they would love to do some serious bodily harm to.

Our advantage is that we are in full control of our emotions as they are expressed through the written word.

I’m sure everyone would agree that it would be wonderful to be able to rewind and review each moment of our lives, picking through our actions and making fine adjustments to extract the very best result we can.

Yet, when we write, we can do just that, can’t we?

The overall tone, though, is a tough one. I guess its all about finding and establishing our style and voice.

As I said to Helena, the system I have established for myself includes endless amounts of re-reading and re-writing.

I have an advantage in this area, my past life as a tradesman. At one point I established and ran an engineering business that manufactured mold tooling for rotational plastic molding.

As time went by, we found ourselves producing tooling that no-one else in the country could do, hand crafted aluminium plate tooling using long dead panel shaping methods of many years past.

As our reputation grew, the jobs got more and more complex, shifting us away from the mainstream and into research and development work for new products.

Some of our jobs took over eighteen months to complete, painstaking detail work, hours spent just on one little area of a mold; smoothing, sanding and polishing.

I became someone with infinite patience and an eye for minute detail; it was only years later I discovered I have what used to be known as Asperger’s, which explained a lot.

So, my style is one of careful and considered wording, every word and detail picked through and audited heavily.

However, as a tradesman who has run several of my own businesses, I appreciate that there is one thing to avoid when taking such an in-depth approach; one must eat.

A line has to be drawn somewhere, and a friend who is an author has several times reminded me that the ship needs to sail.

So, I have set myself goals and deadlines as I’ve progressed, ensuring that those 112,000 plus words don’t see me with an unfinished novel in six years time.

There is another aspect that I have had a struggle with when it comes to tone and style, though. That is that the book is set in rural Australia.

If I had simply written the book for an Australian audience, there would have been no problem at all.

All the colloquialisms could have been thrown about with abandon; plenty of “Fair dinkum mate, you’re yanking me chain, aint ya?”

I could have had a ton of regional jokes in there and the whole writing process would have been ‘sweet as’.

With this series, though, I wanted to reach out to the rest of the world and share a piece of history that remains relatively obscure to this day; Queensland in the Seventies.

I intend to do plenty of posts regarding this, so I’m not going there today, but suffice it to say the tales are interesting and entertaining, and ‘Don’t you worry about that’.

So, there was a bucket of sweat shed over getting the right amount of Australian inflection balanced against the need to avoid any unintentional disengagement of an overseas reader through language that was foreign to them.

The old saw goes that your first book should be about what you know, and I have done just that; creating characters cribbed from my associates from years past, heavily re-worked and often exaggerated for effect, naturally.

I have lived in rural towns, worked in remote far north Queensland and traveled the country quite a bit.

If there’s one thing Australia has an abundance of, it’s characters.

The other thing that I believe is a great help to establishing our tone is in the use of beta readers, and I have been blessed with nothing but good results in that regard.

A good beta reader tells you what they think, so if you get one, brace yourself.

So, there it is, I hope I haven’t wandered too far away from your question Helena, and thank you for the interest.



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