Updated: Aug 28, 2020
On April 12, 2017, Success.com ran an article called “6 Tips to Rule the Art of Conversation.”
It opened with, “The art of conversation is a necessary skill for almost everything in life,” then led into this:
Conversations introduce you to people: important people who could be your mentors, employers, employees, partners or friends. Without conversations as the foundation for those relationships, you’ll have a hard time building a social circle, starting a business or advancing your career.
True all around. And the following tips it gives aren’t inaccurate either:
Lead with a compliment.
Embrace small talk.
Ask lots of questions.
Let the other person do the talking.
Keep it light.
Now, I like to say that writing is rather like a one-sided conversation. Even so, it’s really rather difficult to “embrace small talk” or “ask lots of questions” while writing a novel. Keeping it light might not be appropriate, depending on the genre. And point #5 is downright impossible.
Yet we can creatively interpret #1 and #4 to our novel-writing advantage.
I’m going to do that annoying thing where I promise to explain my last comment – right after this explanation.
It’s a very bad habit I picked up from editing very bad marketing copy back in my pre-Innovative Editing days. Though, in this case, it actually does apply.
Because in order to understand how you can “lead with a compliment” and “keep it light” while writing a novel… you have to first understand the following Definition.
These days, there’s a lot of disagreement on a lot of topics, whether political, societal or personal. (Is there even a difference anymore?) That isn’t an automatic bad thing though. If everyone agreed on everything, we wouldn’t have the wonderfully diverse range of art, advancements, architecture, and books that we do.
Tone is simply how we express those disagreements (and agreements) out loud or in writing. We can come across as snippy, serious, academic, witty, caring, melodramatic, sappy, fun or genuine, just to name a few possibilities.
Now that we have that established, let’s get into how to appropriately apply tone to your writing.
Right after this header.
While I can actually think of a few situations where starting your novel out by complimenting your reader could work… It usually doesn’t. Not directly.
But you can let your tone be complimentary nonetheless. You can be nice.
By that, I mean you can present your words in a way that isn’t demeaning to the reader. And you can select vocabulary that, overall, fits with your targeted audience’s intellectual capacity.
Why do you want to be complimentary? Well, if the normal response of “It’s the polite thing to do” isn’t enough, how about this: The more agreeable readers find you, the more they’re likely to read you.
(My guess is that’s what you want.)
By letting your tone indicate that you consider them your equals, you have a better chance of winning friends and influencing people. And, in the publishing world, that translates well into “getting their money.”
How can you be complimentary? Often, it begins by simply making sure that your actual attitude is properly adjusted.
Often. Though tone can, admittedly, be a rather tricky thing…
Editor’s Note: Read the next post on literary tone here.