|You've got a 1 in 4 chance this guy's in the movie, too.|
You'd probably get mental whiplash, because that's a jarring shift in tone. Sort of like what would happen if you spliced single frames of pornography into family films, as the infamous Tyler Durden was known for. While that works as a joke/device in a Chuck Palahniuk novel, it wouldn't make for a very good movie.
Because tonal dissonance can ruin even the best art.
Keeping a Consistent Tone Takes Practice
It's not enough to know what genre your book is; you have to know what tone you're going for. Just like your setting, your tone is a major ingredient of the final product. So you need to know if your book is gritty, ridiculous, subversive, tense, or slapstick. And once you know what you want it to be, you have to make sure it maintains that tone throughout.
|Whatever tone that happens to be.|
It's also important to remember that, just like genre, a tone can be a blend of whatever you want. Horror-comedy exists, after all. So if you want to write a story that's a spoof of detective novels, you are faced with the challenge of keeping the tone of a procedural investigation, or a gritty private eye story, while still making it funny. If you want to write a fantasy story that focuses on the pain and suffering of those attempting to undertake a quest, and about the shades of gray both the heroes and villains have beneath their simple exteriors, you can do that, too.
Consistency is what's key.
Now, does that mean you can't have moments of hilarity in a high-octane thriller? Of course not. Does that mean your story about four friends going through a coming-of-age drama can't have moments of visceral horror where something goes awry? Hey, it's your book, you do you. But ask yourself this; if you were eating a bunch of creme-filled chocolates, and then you bit into one that had a ghost pepper in it, would you consider that a unique and clever twist on a routine dessert? Probably not. Especially if you didn't know there was a pepper in there when you signed up to eat chocolates.
Learn The Rules Before You Break Them
We all know there are technically no rules to good writing. Truly masterful authors can subvert all the traditional constraints, and create books that break all the rules without sacrificing quality.
It should be noted, though, that most of us are not masters of the art.
|I don't have an entire section of the bookstore dedicated to my work, more's the pity.|
As with anything else, before you decry a writing tradition, or piece of advice, as being too limiting, or stifling your creativity, take a step back. Ask what purpose this rule fills, and what end you achieve by breaking it.
Because it's not enough to know you can break the rules. You need to know why you're doing it before you swing that hammer.
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