Editing for Sensory Language Part 6 Sound

~Do You Hear What I Hear? ~

Crash. Bang. Screech.

Nothing can beat adding sound words into one’s writing. Our sense of hearing develops long before we are born. At 18 weeks, an unborn infant can start to hear sounds. By 25 to 26 weeks, the fetus responds to sounds. By birth, infants can identify their mother’s voice and the music they heard in the womb.

Hearing is also the last sense to go when a person is dying. Hearing difficulties in early childhood can severely affect language and social development. So there is no question that sound plays an important role in human lives. And that tells us it should play an important role in our fiction as well.

Describing Sounds

Sounds can be described in two ways. As a sound word “onomatopoeias” or as a description of a sound.

  • Onomatopoeias are words that sound like the sound: crash, babble, whoosh. These are usually italicized in writing.
  • Sounds can also be described using images and similes. Even then we tend to use words that carry the sound with them: The greased peg slid into the hole. The pig squealed like a banshee.

*Music is a very special form of sound. Often it is enough to mention the title of a well-known song to bring the sound of that music to the reader’s ear. However, care must be taken to add other elements to set the scene as well, in case the reader doesn’t know that song.

When to Add Sounds

A writer’s sound choices can easily change the mood of a scene. Sounds can be pleasant. Sounds can be dissonant. A bird that shrieks is different from a bird that twitters. A voice that murmurs is different from a voice that yells. Every scene should include carefully selected sounds that enhance the emotional effect on the reader. Sound can be added to:

  1. Emphasize an action such as the slamming of a door or the crash of a glass breaking.
  2. Add to setting and character description.
  3. Describe the sound, tone, and pitch of a character’s voice such “a whiskey rough” or a “pitched high enough to hurt the ears.”
  4. Increase the emotional level of dialogue.
  5. Set the mood.
  6. Foreshadow an event.
  7. Add tension or fear to a scary or dark scene.

Some Sound Examples

Here are a few examples from my upcoming novel Close to the Skin releasing August 18th, 2017.

Kaboom. An explosion shook the floor. The monitors in the room flickered and went out. Something fell with a crash in the living room.

The pounding bass of the music thumped in time with her heart.

She’d never be able to sleep with that steady drip, drip, drip drilling into her brain.

Cars whizzed by, horns honked, sirens whined, drivers cursed.

Her voice came from a distance, swallowed up by a jet-engine pitched roar that stung her ears and made the very air vibrate.

Sound Resources for Writers

Animal Sounds

Noise Help

Types of Sounds

Wikipedia Onomatopoeia List

Written Sound

Past Posts on Sensory Language for Writers 

The 7 Senses

Smell

Taste

Touch

Vision


Do you use a lot of sounds in your writing? Do you have a favorite sound resource?

I love to hear from you.


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