Perspective, Voice, and Tone

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

I’ve heard many people, including some writers, use the terms perspective, voice, and tone interchangeably. This is confusing for new writers who are just learning the craft.



Perspective, voice, and tone, though related, are different techniques and play different roles in storytelling.

Let's take a look at what these terms mean and how they differ.

Perspective

Perspective refers to whichever character serves as the eyes, ears, and other senses for readers on their journey through the book. In a memoir, that character is you. Readers will experience the events of the book through your senses, prejudices, fears, preferences, history, neuroses, and other filters. All these together forge your perspective.

In #fiction, it's possible to engineer a story so that the reader views events through multiple characters' eyes, but memoirists don't have that option. In #memoir, the only possible perspective is that of the author, since no one can really know another's experience beyond what they're told.

We create perspective in writing by becoming aware of what drives us (or in fiction, our protagonist). Examples might include:

#1: You see the world in terms of unpredictability/chaos/evil and structure/control/good, due to the chaotic home you grew up in with your violent, alcoholic stepmother. In this case, any display of spontaneity may be interpreted as scary and threatening to you, whereas it might seem playful and joyful to someone else.