It is true that tone makes all the difference in whatever it is that is being said. Or written. Or read.
It is entirely possible to use tone without actual sound. Ever gotten an email with “tone”? I have. Most definitely. An email with “tone” can really get under my skin. I shouldn’t be so sensitive.
Think about all the texts that we have access to that we could never possibly hope to hear a recording of how they were actually spoken originally. The Bible for example. The sonnets. The great poets. Shakespeare.
Seriously, what if we knew exactly which lines in Hamlet were meant to be given the greatest emphasis? And what if, all these years, we have missed the point of “Double, double, toil and trouble” because it’s actually an inside joke?
But tone is subjective. While you and I may agree that a given text has “tone”, upon further investigation, we will likely discover that we have different ideas about what that tone implies.
So the question becomes then, as a writer, how do you convey the intended tone? Or do you? Do you record the details and emotions that strike you as important and let the reader draw from it their own interpretation?
Is there really any other choice?
In the modern age, writing is easy, at least in the mechanics. Most folks have access to a computer. You can type on your phone or iPad, as I’m doing now. If you are old school, pen and paper is cheap. As a result, these days, we record lots of details of our everyday lives. Just check your Facebook and Twitter feeds.
It hasn’t always been that way.
There were times when the physical act of writing, just to record events, was a painstaking process involving precious, and expensive, materials and skills not everyone possessed. So it follows that the details recorded were those considered to be the most memorable, and the mundane got left behind.
Of all the details contained in the Bible about Jesus, for example, nowhere are his culinary tastes recorded . Or his feelings about tunic length. Or whether he was right or left-handed. He was as much human as he was God, so he must have had preferences. (Although, being perfect and all, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he was ambidextrous.)
I can’t help but wonder if Jesus, when asked, “Do you like olives?” might have replied, “Meh. Can take ’em or leave ’em.”
Tell me you wouldn’t like to know that.
For me, it’s all about the details. Which I guess is why I have a blog.
Just thinking out loud tonight, really. This post is part of “Not so small stories” with Kirsten Oliphant. Click on the button to the left to read some more great posts. This week’s theme is “SPEECH. LANGUAGE. WORDS.”