27 December 2015

Techniques for setting tone

Departing for the unknown

Setting the tone for a novel and staying true to that tone throughout can have a profound impact on everything that happens around it. The characters you develop, the words you use, and pictures you paint all have to fit into that chosen tonality.

When writing short stories in which the tonality has to be generated freshly with each new story, I occasionally use a technique taught by Jeanne Tuowmey here in Ireland.  This technique requires that you think of an emotion, then paint a picture of it, and finally write the name of the picture. This technique not only creates tonality in the imagery, it inserts the right emotion into the tone and starts you off with the written word heading in the same direction. By looking at the picture first thing every day while writing, you put yourself in the right frame of mind to keep it going. It all works in concert.

The picture above sets the tone of the uncertainty of setting out to sea.  Leaving the safety of the harbour to face the unknown in the wild has a disconcerting effect. This picture does that for me. I'm not certain what I am seeing but I must deal with it at any cost as my life depends on it.  Soon I will know what's out there and will conquer it or die. The mixed emotions are what keeps you alerts and alive.

For the next novel, I am characterizing my protagonists as archetypes so I can develop them fully in the story and stay true to them throughout. It's a different way of approaching the narrative and I hope it will keep me focused on keeping the portrayal sharp and clear. It's technique we used in advertising to preserve brand integrity across campaigns and different partners in the process.

My lead protagonist in my next novel at this time is an enigmatic adventurer. He is someone who would rather sit in an armchair by the fire but through circumstance has been sent hurtling around the world on a sailboat.

Archetypes were first introduced by psychologist Carl Yung. An archetype is a typical character, who exibits actions, behaviours or situations that seem to represent universal patterns of human nature. Yung used the concept of archetype in his theory of the human psyche. He believed that universal, mythic characters—archetypes—reside within the collective unconscious of people throughout the world.

Yung put forth twelve common archetypes, although there are many more described today, based on four basic human desires: yearn for paradise, leave a mark, connect with others, and provide structure. The first of the desires - yearning for paradise - can be expressed in three different archetypes:  Innocent, Sage and Explorer.  They each have different personality expressions that manifest in egos that strive to achieve their ultimate goal: to find paradise. 

There can be complex archetypes that combine two different desires. For example, the magician ruler is a plausible archetype that appears in fantasy movies. But there are some archetypes that cannot be combined because their expressions are diametrically opposed. For example, the caregiver outlaw or the jester sage would be implausible. (Hmm, maybe those would make for interesting character studies.) 

My enigmatic explorer fits the character profile who yearns for paradise but would rather stay forever safe in a cocoon of hibernation. And so an archetypes is born. Next I have to explore what made him that way.

No comments:

Post a Comment