Tone of voice in writing is much harder to modulate or measure than in real life. The smallest thing effects them. Sometimes, they’re things you never even took into the equation. However, if I suddenly lose all pretense of contractions and I start sounding super stilted, that one change was all it took.
Y’know, you shouldn’t try to be super informal, right? ‘Cuz you may end up writing how you uh talk ya know, oddly placed commas and all, right? Cuz somethin’ ya say may sound much more different on paper than when ya say it, especially when you have a dialect, ya know?
Stilted writing is much like academic writing, in that one must remains detached and omits all contractions. Similarly, the student must refrain from using personal words, as well as words that pertain to the reader. Informality must be purged. All sentences must be clear and well punctuated, as well as having no dialectic words.
See the difference? Both limit you–in their own ways. In the first one, you sound like an ignorant adolescent who doesn’t know anything about the craft of writing, and is equally capable of telling you a story. In case 2, we have an individual whose writing “talent” never wandered beyond their weekly IEW lessons.
I’m not poo-pooing (Another word they will certainly NOT allow you to use in academic works) on IEW or a more informal style of writing. These things have their place. But, heck, what am I saying? This is all about writing fiction, for gosh sakes? Luckily, I’m able to make the connection: when writing, whether narrating or writing dialogue, never fall into one of the two extremes. Always find a middle ground.
What does this have to do with writing fiction? Quite a bit, actually. You don’t want to sound like either of the two extremes while writing your book. It’s easy to accidentally write your dialogue like you write your narrating, or vice versa. This is why you have to find that sweet spot, the middle ground that allows you to do your best work.
So should you opt for more of a informal way of speaking (dialect and all…or none) or a more formal-sounding type? Well, truth be told, I would say the same: don’t go fully for one or the other. The key here is naturality. Don’t ever pick a tone of voice that you’re uncomfortable with.
However, the one piece of advice that I would recommend is that if you want a formula out of me, I’d say something like let your ratio of informal-formal to be 60:40. In other words, I would favor the more informal way of speaking. However, you would still never hear me narrating like “Johnny got knocked down, but my momma always told me to get back up.”
I hold such things (being overtly informal with the reader) to be amateurish and the mark of an uneducated and inexperienced writer. It emphasizes you as the narrator rather than the characters in the story. Have a good, well-modulated tone of voice that is neither too stilted or too cozy.
Good luck, and happy writing!