Tod Foley

Words & Worlds

Beats and Tone: Action and Affect

AS A WRITER AND EDITOR, I’m a strong advocate of “Cutting to the Beat” — which means for each chapter, you want to start as close as possible to the beat you’re about to establish, establish it, and get out.

But I also love great literary stylization and emotional affect, and this is often more about tone than plot. David Foster Wallace was a master at this: he would write long passages in which there was there’s no “action” per se, but you felt the MC’s feelings and thoughts through Wallace’s vivid and evocative depiction of the world they see. It’s more about voice and tone at that point.

These approaches work differently in different types of stories, as well. You need to decide whether your story is one that mostly “wants” to stick to the beats to maintain forward momentum, or takes time to rely on voice and tone for immersion, or a mixture of the two.

The manner and degree to which you mix those two things will become a big part of the unique register of your “voice” in this book.


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