Tone is more than the words you use. It's the speed with which they come across the paper. It's the way in which you express them.
|Photo by: paloetic, courtesy of Flickr|
For example, you could say:
"He was a jerk. A real loser. It was like he lived inside a bubble or something."
"Tom was self-centered. Sometimes, well, quite often actually, he'd be so fired up about his own life that he couldn't see past it to anyone else's."
"She didn't think Tom knew what to do. He must have had a million things on one itty bitty plate. It was almost as if it was hard for him to put one foot in front of the other."
In the first instance, I hope you feel the anger from the person looking in on Tom.
In the second example, there is a bit more opening up from the person watching.
In the third example, we are looking directly at Tom, and for the first time may finally see why he appears self-centered and a jerk.
Check your tone. Does it reflect the scene? Does it reflect the character? Does it reflect how others see the character, or is the tone too harsh or too soft?
I have a scene in my latest book that may strike some readers as over the top, and perhaps a little harsh. The main character, after trying to make something work, gets angry, so angry she destroys personal property. But I think it works. You can't be afraid for your main character to fly off the handle just because you feel as if a 40 year old wouldn't do that. You can't be afraid to express it when it needs to be expressed. When the anger needs to come out, there should be little holding back, especially if the character really needs to get it out.
And only you know when that needs to happen.
Read your work out loud if you have to. Get someone else to read it. Make sure the tone fits the scene as well as the character within the scene.