Saturday, September 14, 2013

Week 4: voice; childhood memoir

Lecturette #1

Last week tone, this week voice--what the heck is the difference?

Trust me (and you should because I just did this) if you google 'voice vs tone,' you will not emerge from your research any happier. But there is a difference, a big difference.

Tone is the mood you convey, what 'affect' the reader feels. Voice...voice is all those little things that make a piece inimitably you, your quirks, your way of dealing with words.

The best example I can give you is me. My tone tends to be light and humorous, if I can manage it. So far this piece exemplifies that. When I write 'what the heck,' that's typical of me, that kind of casual everyday talk in what in fact is a lecture. Same with 'trust me.'

Same with 'you will not emerge from your research any happier' which is kind of a wise ass way of saying more formally: 'Your research will yield no usable results' or 'Any material you find will contradict other material also available.' I could write that way, and if I habitually did write that way, I'd have a different voice, stiffer, more serious-sounding (true seriousness always requires an admixture of humor IMO because 'it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing' [and parentheses like this also are a characteristic part of my voice]).

But, okay, you're still confused about the difference between tone and voice. My goal in Lecturette #1 is to convey good information, enough to get you started, to do my best to create a calm, easy, light tone, and at the end to force you to reread my words.

Now let's try a different tone but still in my regular voice!

My plan now is to sound like John A (Don't ask!) Goldfine but to offer my readers a different emotion while discussing the exact same material. I'm going to try to terrorize you (tone) in my usual voice! Here goes:

Lecturette #2
I hate to confuse you like this by putting tone and voice in back to back weeks, but that's the way it seems to have happened and no doubt after a bit of a squirm, you will handle it. And if you can't, that's what rewrites (infinite rewrites!) are all about!

Don't even bother trying to google this. Waste of time! Here it is in a nutshell: You recognize your sweetie's voice. That voice sounds like your sweetie whether your sweetie is calling you a loser a-hole or whether your sweetie is whispering sexy invitations into your ear.

The voice is the same, the tone is going to vary depending on how mad or how amorous your sweetie happens to feel. Simple as that. Don't sweat it. Handle it! You've got a week (and then a dozen more weeks to revise to find that voice of yours before the end of the semester.) Have fun!

Now lecture version # 2 still sounds like me, I hope, but that slightly sadistic tone, that indifference to your reaction to what I'm saying, that vague menace while I talk about rewrites, that's much different than the positive supportive tone in Lecture #1. Do you feel that new tone?

With luck you'll never hear it again from me, okay? It was just put in for illustrative purposes only, and we will now return you to your regularly scheduled tone.


  1. So last week was "tone" where we were supposed to change up the tone within the piece, well that's what I thought it was. So this week is voice. Do you want us to change our usual "voice" for the piece as you did for the "Lecture 2"?

  2. I'm not sure you really can change your voice, bobbi. It takes a lot to disguise it--tone is another matter.

    I read your travel piece a few hours ago. It has a tone of wonder, pleasure, remembrance, humor. Harder to characterize voice.

  3. I have made the edits I think you were looking for and added something extra:)