Day 9 – Listen Up, Sound is Important!


The next sense we are going to discuss is sound. Right behind sight, sound is the next most often used sense in both life and writing.

New writers often fall to naming a sound.

He heard the birds singing.

We don’t just want to name the sound we want our readers to be able to hear the sound. The best way to do this is to use onomatopoeia words. Most of us vocalize in our minds when we read. Onomatopoeic words and phrases help us hear the sound you’re describing. Onomatopoeia is when a word sounds life its definition – hiss, creak, clatter, swish.

We want to use words in our writing that sound like their meaning.

She hadn’t even opened her eyes when she heard the birds. Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.

The important thing to remember here is not to overuse these words.  Use them at critical moments in your story when you really want to emphasize a sound.


The Specifics of Sound.

It’s not always about the sound itself, but sometimes it’s about the lack of sound, the volume of the sound, the duration of the sound, or whether we have any control over the sound.  And of course, let’s not forget our ancestor’s emotional reaction to the sound.

It is said that lack of noise over long periods of time can cause hallucinations, decrease memory function and loss of identity. Something to keep in mind.

Often sound becomes an issue for us when we are not in control of it. When we have the ability to make a sound stop, we are more able to tolerate it. However, when we are not in control of stopping a sound our tolerance level drops. I can attest to that with my neighbours barking dog.

We also tend to ignore soft sounds, life a furnace running or a ticking clock. Louder noises can’t as easily be tuned out in the same way.

When you include a sound in your story, consider whether your viewpoint ancestor or the characters around them would naturally have an emotional reaction to that sound, or a lack of reaction to the sound.


 Setting  the mood

Choice of sounds can alter the whole feel of a scene in your story. Carefully, choose your words to help create the feeling you want your reader to experience. If you want to lighten the mood, add a funny or embarrassing sound. The sounds you choose can express many different feelings such as  a serious emotion, a romantic sentiment, or a celebratory moment. Consider the mood you want to convey in a scene before choosing the sound you wish to feature.


Background Noise

We take for granted the daily noises in our lives. Place in the background those everyday noises, that we take for granted, like dogs barking, dishes clattering in the sink, a  fireplace crackling,  a clock ticking, kids playing in the yard and so on. While we might dismiss many of these sounds, we want our viewpoint ancestor to be aware of the sounds going on around him or her.  These background noises will help the setting feel real and alive for the readers.

What do they notice about the voice of another person, do they coo or whine or speak deep and loud. Do they have an accent?

If your ancestor is stuck next to someone what noise becomes annoying that they wouldn’t notice in quarters that aren’t so close and extended?  Ever sit in tight quarters on an airplane or a bus. Do the noises of people around you start to bother you after a while. They do me. That’s  why I have noise cancelling headphones.

Does the person have a whistle when they breathe? Clear their throat, or snort often.

Do they chew gum (tries me nuts when people chew gum loudly)

Clicking a pen, tapping a foot

Little details of sound help bring your setting to life for the reader, something we’ll talk about more later. If we don’t put the sounds on the page, the reader can’t hear them in their head.