How to Write Sounds Right

This morning the weather played a role in today’s post. As I stood looking out over my back deck, a wind gust lifted the center-pole umbrella and it smashed into the glass table top of the patio furniture. A zillion little glass pieces later, our patio table was history.
Writing Tip for Today: Sounds are an important part of Concrete Sensory Details, CSD, so vital to scene writing. But how should they be expressed?

  • To Describe or Not to Describe. I’ll forgo the old TV Batman comparisons, but most of the time I can’t handle sounds that are reported as their real phonetics dictate. Thus, Bam! Pow! or other sound words feel like an easy out for a writer. Work a little harder to create the atmosphere of sound. Example: In Mary Carr’s The Liar’s Club, she describes sounds by creating an atmosphere. “The room sits quiet, the only noises the pop of eggs sliding in grease, and Shug folding up the butcher paper.” See how much more than a “POP!” she creates?
  • Incredibly Loud Metaphors. When you write sounds, you can often avoid “ly” words by comparing the sound to a known sound. EXAMPLE: “It was as loud as the Fourth of July.”
  • Use Emotions. Like everything else in good writing, emotions are at the heart of writing sounds. How does the sound cause your character to react? These cues can give the reader a more complete or total reading experience. Example: “When he snored, she parked a pillow over her head.”

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

4 comments on “How to Write Sounds Right

  1. Linda, thanks for this! I’ve never really liked the “BANG!” either. I’ve always felt writing sounds carries more power, gives more life to atmosphere and indulges a reader more, letting them into the excitement or vulnerability of the character. It’s good to know someone else thinks so too – it instills more confidence!

    • Miranda, If you take a look at most of the authors we highly regard, they rarely write out sounds, and instead give us an insight into the character. Thanks for stopping in. ~Linda

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