Writing goes deeper than genre. You aren’t just a romance writer, or a paranormal writer, or fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary… Writing is more than plot and character and whether your story is YA, MG, Adult, or a picture book.
Writing is also about tone.
Tone spans the length of a novel, a chapter, a scene. Many authors develop and are known for specific tones found in their writing, whether it’s a deliciously dark and disturbing tone, or something brighter, happier, feel-good…a story you just know will end with rainbows and bunnies.
If I had to define what I mean by “tone,” I guess I would say it’s atmosphere. Whereas voice is what you say and how you say it, tone would be the emotions that may or may not ever be directly expressed.
I think of THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH trilogy by Carrie Ryan, and I immediately feel anxious. The entire book is tense, and there is never once a feeling of safety or comfort. Not even when the MC feels safe do I, as the reader, feel we are out of harm’s way. The book keeps you on edge this way, and it’s beautiful.
SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater has a similar effect, except that it’s a lost, desperate feeling, very bittersweet. There are happy moments, but it’s always off-set by the impending doom and pain of having to say goodbye. The ending is such a drastic jerk in the opposite direction in terms of tone, that I think it really gives it the extra oomph.
HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE is a magical and quirky story. I never have a sense of dread, thinking anything terrible will happen to the characters I love, but there is a sense of “what will happen next?” HMC is one of the easy feel-good books I can pick up repeatedly because the cute and whimsical tone and gentle humor draws me in again and again.
Story-specific tones can really make or break a book. Writer-specific-tones are a little trickier, because I feel all writers should be willing to step out of their comfort zone and write something lighter, or darker, than they normally might.
My own writing tends to be dark. I played it safer with my first book because it was my first complete MS and I was nervous. Since then I’ve grown more comfortable in my own author-skin, I guess, and it doesn’t worry me so much. When I started in on HUSHED, I’d relaxed and I went all-out. Writing as dark and heavy as I wanted.
I love writing raw emotional pain and struggling. I love bittersweet endings – happy, but not without sacrifice and loss. I love the tragic, broken heroes who flounder always just below the surface. The tragic ones, the ones whose pain tear my heart out and make me hurt for them. I love books that can make me feel this way, and it’s what I want to do with my own stories, it’s what I want to give to others. But on the other side of things, I don’t want my work to be doom and gloom. I don’t want a Romeo and Juliet.
I want to chase my characters up that proverbial tree and throw stones, I even want to knock them out of the tree, but I always want them to get back up in the end.
There can’t be dark without light, after all, even if you’re writing something you want to tug on the heart-strings and then tear them out and leave readers devastated. Some books do this and pull it off marvelously. Some of us like the hard-on-the-heart books. Some of us like going into a book with twists and turns, but knowing everything will be okay in the end.
The beautiful thing about tone is, in my opinion, a writer can’t have a wrong kind of tone. Your work can be beautiful and dark, or it can be humorous and dark. Funny and upbeat. Feel-good and fun. Slow and sexy. There are no limits and there are no rules...except to have some kind of tone at all.
It’s like voice in that sense. It’s hard to define, hard to teach, but if it isn’t there, you’ll know it.
'Kelley York delivers in this impressive debut. I was at the edge of my
seat waiting to see what would happen next! Bottom line, this was
unputdownable!!!' --- YA Fantasy Guide ---
'How exciting that we live in a time when gay teen protagonists can be
just as screwed up as straight ones -- and their stories just as creepy!'
--- Brent Hartinger, award-winning author of Geography Club and Shadow
Kelley was born and raised in central California, where she still resides
with her lovely wife, daughter, and an abundance of pets. (Although she
does fantasize about moving across the globe to Ireland.) She has a
fascination with bells, adores all things furry - be them squeaky, barky
or meow-y - is a lover of video games, manga and anime, and likes to
pretend she's a decent photographer. Her life goal is to find a real
unicorn. Or maybe a mermaid.
Within young adult, she enjoys writing and reading a variety of genres
from contemporary with a unique twist, psychological thrillers,
paranormal/urban fantasy and horror. She loves stories where character
development takes center stage.
Kelley's website: http://www.kelley-york.com/blog
Hushed - Synopsis:
He's saved her. He's loved her. He's killed for her.
Eighteen-year-old Archer couldn't protect his best friend, Vivian, from
what happened when they were kids, so he's never stopped trying to protect
her from everything else. It doesn't matter that Vivian only uses him when
hopping from one toxic relationship to another - Archer is always there,
waiting to be noticed.
Then along comes Evan, the only person who's ever cared about Archer
without a single string attached. The harder he falls for Evan, the more
Archer sees Vivian for the manipulative hot-mess she really is.
But Viv has her hooks in deep, and when she finds out about the murders
Archer's committed and his relationship with Evan, she threatens to turn
him in if she doesn't get what she wants...And what she wants is Evan's
death, and for Archer to forfeit his last chance at redemption.
Note: My review will be coming later in the day. I had a hard drive malfunction and lost my draft of my review…along with every other document of importance that I, like the dolt I am, forgot to back up.