Archive | 10:08 AM

Book Sense: Sound

27 Nov

With a lack of topics and a need to write the posts for this week well ahead of time, I’m embarking on a series for this week that will focus on the sounds books can (and should) include. I’m going to skip sight because so much of a book is describing a picture (and because of my number of posts per week). Today, I’m going to start with sound!

I’ll pick four to start with.

  • Sound of a speaker’s voice
  • Background sounds for a setting
  • Sudden or startling sounds
  • Sounds that provoke a reaction or trigger a memory

If you have more, please add them in a comment.

The sound of a speaker’s voice: Now, this can be great if a character is going to have a unique way of speaking such as an accent or vocal tick. I really like it when used sparingly. For example, I could tell you my husband’s voice raises when he’s about to make a bad pun and then if I ever talked about his voice starting to rise, you could imply he’s about to make a bad pun. (Note: you could guess this every five minutes and be correct.) I think this can be used well to show the age of a character, too. High voices for a child or cracking voices for an elderly person. However, if used for every character or too many in a single scene, it can get old fast. Sparingly, it’s a great tool.

Background sounds for a setting: This is on my mind now because I have the Rumba running and clothes in the dryer. So before you picture me sitting alone in a quiet apartment, realize that the Rumba got stuck in my bathroom and the dryer buzzer is about to go off so I’ll be stepping away to unload the clothes. Little touches like this can make a scene. I’m writing this, but I’m busy! Maybe there’s a peaceful background noise if I’m writing out on the porch with the wind chimes blowing or I’m hiding from my husband’s friends if I can hear a football game. I like these touches when they add to the mood. If they don’t, they’re distracting and unnecessary.

Sudden or startling sounds: When a sudden action happens, I find a sound is usually attached. A gun going off, a door slamming shut, a car crashing, a glass shattering. These all have very jarring sounds associated with them. If I’m napping and my husband comes home, the door jerks open and I wake up. (Note: The dryer buzzer just went off. Timing.). Because a lot of fiction focuses on an inciting incident, I think the sound of that incident can be a great way to punctuate the action.

Sounds that provoke a reaction or trigger a memory: This is another one I’m going to say is best used sparingly. If there’s a memory that a character needs to share, sense memory is a great way to bring it forward. A sound like a baby crying or a balloon popping can trigger an emotional time for a character. When this memory moves the plot forward, I think it’s a good technique. If it’s building a character arc, I think it could be OK. If it’s filling paper, it’s a waste.

What are other times you like sound description in a book or story? Leave a comment and let me know!

Until next time, write on.

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