Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Sound Sense


Let's face it. An ear is not the prettiest part of the body. Granted, some ears are nicer looking than others, but it doesn't matter whether they lay close to your head or stick out like the wings of a B-29 Bomber. It's what they do for us that counts. 

Ears allow us to absorb sound and transmit it to our brain where it registers. Sound is one of the sensory details that writers are so often advised to include in their stories. Why sensory details? Because they make a story come alive. They allow the reader to relate completely to the place, character and more. 

I thought about the thrill of sound last night when Ken and I went to the K-State campus to see the spring show put on by the orchestra and chorus made up of students. Students who were so talented and professional that they received a standing ovation. The program was the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein with selections from several of their Broadway shows--The King and I, South Pacific, Carousel, The Sound of Music and Oklahoma. 

As Ken drove us home across the campus, I started to think about sound in our life and how we need to emphasize it in our writing. So, let's consider how to add sound to your writing today.

When I read a novel or a story, or even creative nonfiction, I don't want to have the author tell me that he heard the clock. Show it to me instead. Try something like The clock chimed eleven times, each piercing my  aching head like an arrow. 

Don't tell me that you heard a bird outside in the morning. Instead, try to show it. Here you can use sight and sound. The red-breasted robin trilled its morning song in the early dawn.

Use action verbs to help you show a sound. So many of these verbs jump up and make you hear them. Use the phrases below to write a complete sentence that brings sound to life. Add other details in your sentences. The more you use them, the easier it will be to incorporate sound into your writing.

1. the gurgle of water

2. the hiss of a steam pipe

3. the trill of a bird

4. the chime of a clock

5..the tick of a clock

6. the growl of a bear

7. the screech of a braking car

8. the boom of thunder

Sounds can be irritating, soothing, even melodic. Pay attention to the sounds you hear today. Make a list of them if you have time. 


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