Thursday, June 11, 2009
Sense of Sound
The sense of sound probably finds its way onto the writer's page in second position after the sense of sight. Regardless of where you are, a city or the wilderness, close your eyes for a moment and allow yourself to hear the sounds, or the silence, that surrounds you. Even in what you think is relative silence, there is always a sound, even if it's white noise in your ears. But you will pick up more, the soughing of the wind perhaps, insects buzzing about, a jet flying overhead. Something. In the city, it might be a cacophony of noise, almost too many sounds to describe. Pick out those that relate to the mood of your story in some way. For instance, if your character is happy, focus on the happy sounds, like the happy music of an ice cream truck coming down the street, or a bird chirping merrily in the nearby tree, children laughing. If your character is in a frightening situation, like lost in the forest, focus on a huffing noise in the depths of the forest that could be a wild animal like a bear coming close. Or twigs snapping, brush popping and crackling as if something is coming fast with no caution. It could be a herd of elk fleeing a hunter, or it could be a predator chasing your protagonist. Sounds work wonderfully to create a mood.
There is an old Cherokee saying that I love: "Listen, or your tongue will make you deaf."
Now here are a few examples of how to use sound to create a mood and/or paint a picture.
From Firelight by Linda Sandifer:
"He always came at night, like death or the devil. He came when the moon rode high, casting ghostly shadows over the canyons and over his fiery red body. But he never came quietly. Even above the thunder of his band's pounding hooves, the stallion's shrill scream pierced the night and sent chills racing down the spines of every person on the Walking Hawk Ranch. The low, rumbling sound, like the earth trembling, pulled Rafe Cutrell from the depths of a deep sleep."
From Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas:
"At first, I wasn't scared, just humiliated, knowing that the drone in the room meant my classmates were talking about me, accusing me of being a thief. When the bell rang, dismissing classes, and the room grew quiet, however, I wondered if I'd have to stay there all night."
"Carl began to cry, and Dad sat down on the steps next to him, putting his arm around Carl's shoulder. We were all silent, listening to Carl's sobs, which were ragged, like a piece of machinery that wasn't hitting right."