Friday, November 14, 2008

voice and tone

November’s dreariness has arrived in Johnson – dark clouds, cold rain, leaves blown into corners. Visiting poet Kevin Young gave his writers’ talk today. He spoke about voice and tone, that writers already have a voice, that it’s our breath we need to find. Breath creates tone, like Miles Davis’s breath creates the emotional quality that we think of as his tone.

I’m thinking about how that idea relates to fiction writers. Cynthia Rylant’s prose is rhythmic and musical. I think of that quality as her voice. Voice and tone certainly seem related. The river flowing by has a natural voice, but when the heron flies down river, the tone of the scene changes. The heron is temporal but enhances the scene. Maybe in the same way, finding one’s breath creates a tone that enhances the underlying voice. These are topics to dance around and never quite define, I suspect. Back to plotting!

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