Voice Versus Tone (And Why It matters)
Updated: Apr 21
Among the elements of writing, voice and tone are the king and queen of fictional writing. I may be over exaggerating there a bit—well, not really. And here is why!
Voice and tone are the way you sound when you speak or write, but each element has a unique role in storytelling.
Think of voice as the way you act overall—your personality. In writing, it’s how an author uses language in general that remains the same (or changes very gradually) throughout their writing career. It is all the qualities that make a writer unique.
Tone, on the other hand, is a writer’s attitude toward the subject and the mood implied by an author’s word choice. Unlike voice, tone changes based on the situation and is one of the most defining characteristics that sets one story apart from another. It’s what terrified us in Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and what touched our hearts in Owens’s “Where the Crawdads Sing.”
Take a look at an example of each to gain a deeper understanding.
I could sense the tension building as the drums boomed louder, the violins increased their speed, and the French horns blasted their bold notes—everything jovial, and progressive, and unified.
In this example, the author looks outward at the beauty of an orchestra, playing freely with her words.
As I sat in the plush, velvet seats of the grand theater, the lights dimmed and the stage pulsed to life, and I relished in the excitement.
Here, the word choices (plush, velvet, grand, pulsed, excitement) are all positive, emercing the reader into the thrill of attending a live performance.
Now that we have a good understanding of voice and tone, why does it matter?
Simply put—if your voice is inconsistent, readers notice.
Having an inconsistent voice is jarring and upsetting for readers. It makes them feel uncomfortable, and because of this, they will be less likely to pick up your next novel. Or finish reading the one in their hands.
Remember, voice is your personality and should never change.
Your tone is quite the opposite and should change based on the situation.
When it comes to tone, there is a time and place for it. For instance, say your best friend just lost a pet. You would not console her by cracking jokes. Tone works the same way in writing. To pinpoint your tone, ask yourself how you want your reader to feel after they have read your piece. What emotions do you want to evoke? Then think of ways that allow that emotion to come out in an appropriate way that fits your voice.
There you have it! Now you are officially an expert on voice versus tone. Well, almost!
Want to learn some tips on how to find your unique author voice? Check out my next blog post where I’ll share some tricks to help you discover yours!
Strap on that seat belt, wordsmiths, and jumpstart that engine. Time to #CreateYourEpic!