tone deaf

i am extremely tone deaf. i can’t carry a tune (singing or whistling) if my life depended upon it and i definitely can’t tell an A from a B flat or a G minor. (is G minor even a note? or is it a chord?)

anyways, that’s not my point.

my point is: tone as it relates to voice in writing — it’s me, what else would i mean? :)

and see, that right there is what’s bothering me. the :). it’s so hard to properly convey the tone you want in writing, in emailing, and in blogging, and as such, it’s easy to be misread.

case in point.

my intention with that post was to be silly. i mean, look at that drawing! i can’t not giggle, but all of the responses and emails and conversations i had about that post (save one) thought i meant it in a negative way.

and that’s where i’m confused.

is it because my blog’s tone of late has been negative? (sorry about that. i’m working to remedy this.) or is it because you were in a bummer mood when you read it and that colored your perception of it? or is it because i didn’t put in a :)?

i think the :) is a lackadaisical crutch we have ALL been guilty of using. instead of carefully selecting the proper verb (like she skipped, he sauntered, they frolicked), we use tired, but tried and true verbs like (she jogged, he ran, they walked) and add in a :) to convey the proper tone.

but then again, what if i’d put in a :p versus a :D versus a ;)? would it make you laugh harder because you thought i was smiling bigger or winking at you? where does the writer draw the line? with a simple smiley? with no smiley? with bolder word choices? with illustrations?

what about sarcasm? how do you make your words mimic the deadpan expression on your face?

or on your character’s face? how do you establish a character’s identity before he even speaks so that when he does open his mouth, you (as the reader) will immediately know if the tone is sarcastic or serious?

i suppose this is a CHALLENGE ACCEPTED situation and i’m going to have to work harder on my word choices so that emoticons are no longer necessary. you should be able to read “i opened the window, glanced up at the stars, and relaxed in the chair as i waited for the alien invasion” versus “i closed all the shades and crouched behind the couch clutching a baseball bat as i waited for the alien invasion” and know what the intended mood is.

provided i don’t throw in an errant ;) after “i crouched behind the couch,” but then again, sometimes rhyming is just the thing you need to help pass the time until the aliens arrive.

unless they’re the kind of aliens that prey on tone deaf females.

*runs away*

8 thoughts on “tone deaf”

  1. You make a great point. We in the internet age have become overly dependent on emoticons. I was thinking about this the other day, as a matter of fact, as I typed out yet another wink. The thing is, so much meaning in casual conversation is conveyed by tone of voice and facial expressions, which, of course, can’t be used in written exchanges. Internet conversations tend to be casual in nature, and sometimes words alone, no matter how carefully chosen, can’t communicate precisely what we’d like.

    And, boy, I’d sure love a good sarcasm emoticon.

    1. NOOOO. as a professional, you’re supposed to say words alone can work to convey tone. you mean i can’t give up the emoticons?

      well, hell, then yes, we should invent a sarcasm one. how about :s ?

  2. Bahaha! I love the :s! So cute! It’s perfect. You two are geniuses!

    G minor is not a note. It’s technically not even a chord, because the universe of G minor includes several chords. It’s… like a framework for a melody. Like a specific color palette. It tells you where you are, and establishes the value for the notes you’ll be working with. It’s like a glossary for a book — it tells you something about the notes and helps you understand how to “read” them. It’s like a mini language. A dialect!

    Gah. This is very hard to explain :)

    I get your point about tone though… It IS hard to do just with words. I remember my emoticon boycott :) But you’ll figure it out, because that’s what writers do!

    1. holy cow, G minor is complicated. kind of like calculus.

      moving on, YES, i thought of you and your emoticon boycott the entire time i was writing this post.

      and thanks for calling me a writer! and for telling me i’ll figure it out. i guess i just need to put some more effort in. time to stop being lazy, mumford.

      1. It’s not that complicated, it’s just that my explanation sucked :) When you say that a song or a waltz or whatever is written in G minor, F major, A minor, Dflat major, etc., is kind of like saying “We are now in England, or we are now in India, which means some words are pronounced a little differently or mean something a little different” :) For example, on the piano, knowing that something is in G minor tells me that a lot of the black keys will be involved — in comparison to G major, say.

        Ok, I’m done now :)

        You ARE a writer. So go figure it out, writer! :)

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