Writers—Here You Go!
Today I am sharing space at 4writersandreaders with indie author and publisher Traci Sanders. Sanders has written a fantastic new series that will help even the seasoned pro write it better. Here, in her own words, is Traci…
TIP 165: Watch your tone
This tip, and many others on grammar and writing, can be found in Before You Publish: Tips on grammar, writing, and editing.
You can think of this as a reference guide, rather than a book you need to read from cover to cover. It will become your new go-to-guide for all things writing, grammar, and editing. The tips are easy to follow and explained in simple terms that anyone can understand and put to use right away.
Growing up, do you remember your parents telling you, “It wasn’t what you said, it was how you said it”? I do.
I hated hearing that, but I must admit now that it’s true … especially in writing, because tone cannot be automatically detected in text.
I’ll bet most of you haven’t put much thought into this with your writing. In all honesty, I didn’t either—until I learned a better way.
I won’t get into all the mechanics of writing dialogue just yet. This tip is going to help you establish tone in writing dialogue.
Have you ever read a line such as this in a story?: “Not a word of this to anyone,” she whispered.
Well, until we got to “she whispered,” we had no inclination of the tone of voice this character used. As readers, we had to create the tone in our heads, and then we realized at the end of the sentence, we were wrong.
We know the character didn’t shout the words because there is no exclamation point. So maybe we thought he/she simply declared this statement in a regular voice, or perhaps he/she was angry and said it through gritted teeth. We had no way of knowing for sure until we saw the word whispered.
Therefore, to convey true tone without making the reader guess how the words are meant to sound, the author needs to indicate a change in voice before the character speaks.
Here are a few examples of ways to establish intonation before dialogue:
Okay: “Don’t touch my phone,” the boy’s mom warned through gritted teeth.
Better: The boy’s mom gritted her teeth and said, “Don’t touch my phone.”
Okay: “Don’t leave me,” she begged.
Better: Her voice trembled as she begged, “Don’t leave me.”
Okay: “Stacey, look at the abs on that guy. His girlfriend is one lucky woman,” Laura whispered to her best friend as they sat at the table in the library.
Well, darn. We had to wait until three-fourths of the way through this sentence to find out that Laura didn’t say the words loud enough for anyone but Stacey to hear, and learn that the two girls were in a library.
Better: As they sat at the library table, Laura leaned into Stacey and whispered, “Girl, look at the abs on that guy. His girlfriend is one lucky woman.”
Okay: “You never let me do anything. I hate you,” he mumbled to his mom under his breath.
Better: In a voice only he could hear, Jamie mumbled, “You never let me do anything. I hate you.” You would have set the scene with the mom before this sentence. It doesn’t always have to be part of the dialogue.
So, now you know another trick to help you write dialogue that keeps your story moving along without readers having to go back and reread the sentence once they realize they used the wrong tone.
For more tips on writing compelling dialogue, I highly recommend you all check out this book. It’s a fun, quick guide that provides a wealth of information.
- GeezWriter How-To: Dialogue: An Author’s Guide to Correctly Writing Compelling Story Character Conversations
Award-winning author of parenting, children’s, and romance titles
~Reviews keep authors writing~
Traci Sanders is a multi-genre, multi-award-winning author of ten published titles, with contributions to three anthologies. An avid blogger and supporter of Indie authors, she writes parenting, children’s, romance and nonfiction guides.
Sanders’s ultimate goal is to provide great stories and quality content for dedicated readers, whether through her own writing or editing works by other authors.
Traci Sanders is giving away two prizes during this tour:
- ONE unsigned paperback copy of Before You Publish– Volume I
- ONE unsigned paperback copy of Beyond The Book –Volume II
To enter, all you have to do is email Traci a proof of purchase of a digital copy of either of these two books during the tour.
She will draw TWO winners total, at the end of the tour.
Please email your proof of purchase (can be a screenshot) to firstname.lastname@example.org