My last little snippet on the elements in writing dealt with “Voice’. Today I want to spend a bit of time on ‘color’. Let’s give Voice a short review, first.
Voice can best be described as how you present your story – it includes your attitude about the tale you tell, the point of view from which you tell the tale and your approach to your writing. It’s more than just your style – it’s you, as the writer, telling the tale.
‘Color’ in music refers to the variety of tones used in a piece of music – it refers to the complexity of tones the composer selects for a piece. What key (how many flat or sharp notes) he or she prefers to provide the overall tone of the piece, which cords (majors, dimunitives, minors etc) are used, and so on. In other words, is the piece going to be a simple folk tune, a 1950’s romantic such as “More” (from Fellini’s movie “Mondo Cane”) or a complex classic such as Pachelbel’s Cannon in D Major, or one of Beethoven’s symphonies?
You’ve heard the term, Noir (Black), used to describe a classic detective novel, I’m sure. You know right away it’s going to be a dark tale, morbid and slightly depressing. And you’ve certainly read enough blurbs on the back’s of novels where the tale within is described as a “warm and loving family story”. Warm in this sense gives you the tone of the story.
Well, that’s ‘Color’. You as the writer set the tone of each scene long before you begin to write it. You know well in advance if it has to portray a warm and intimate scene between two people, or a caring and loving scene between a mother and daughter or a dark and forbidding scene where the hero confronts the bad guy in an alley.
You need to keep that color, that tone, in mind throughout the scene or risk confusing your reader. Once the scene is over you can transition to another tone as the characters relax or reflect or shift into another activity, but to maintain the reader’s ‘suspension of disbelief’, keep the color of the scene clear.
The overall color (or tone) of the tale you tell will go a long way toward selling it to your readers. Many readers will never purchase a noir story simply because they choose not to be depressed by what they read. For the same reason they will choose to only read ‘A warm and loving tale of a family struggling to survive in the face of adversity’ tale.