I was out with some friends over the weekend. After a few drinks, we decided to make our way to a karaoke bar.
Inebriated enough to be confident in my singing skills, I proudly snatched the mic right away. As any budding American Idol would do, I picked the song of the summer: Can’t Stop that Feeling by Justin “ramen hair” Timberlake. As I belted out the lyrics, I thought I sounded pretty good – almost at the same level of JT. In reality, I sounded more like him:
I can’t sing. I’m tone-deaf. My career as a pop singer turned movie star will probably never happen. I made this realization after my friends banned me from singing.
Luckily, I have writing, I thought as I stumbled home from karaoke. Inspired, I wrote a terrifying scene where the recently revealed antagonist hunts the protagonist.
I awoke the next morning eager to read my work. I wish I didn’t because the scene was awful. The tone was completely off. My dialogue, for instance, did not match the feel of the scene. One line was: “Here’s Pedro!” You read that right. I just included a goofy parody of the Shining in my tense, nail-biting scene.
Tone or “feeling of the scene” is like the present you get your in-laws – it is almost impossible to get right, but brilliant when you do. I struggle with the tone every time I write.
I try not to keep my script monotone because that’s boring. At the same time, extreme shifts in tone cause unexpected hilarious “here’s Pedro” moments. It’s a balancing act and I am not graceful. I have so much respect (and jealously) for writers who can execute proper tone. They are the masters and I am this guy:
I’ve found that the only way to get tone right is to have someone else read your work. I then ask how the scene made them feel and hope it matches my desired tone. Spoiler: it often doesn’t. In those moments, I feel tone-deaf…again.
Until next time,