Every writer knows that to draw a reader into her literary world she needs to describe it in terms of the fives senses. But knowing and doing are two different things. I know I rely too heavily on sight and need to work on using the other four. Almost an Author is running a series of posts on writing with senses. This one on sound provides an interesting exercise to get you to notice sound more.
Reviewing my novel, I found a few areas where I do use sound. One is in how characters sound when they talk. Below are a few examples.
Describing a three-year-old boy: “Because he … talked so well, True gave you the weird impression he was a miniature adult.”
A sixteen-year-old boy is chronically nervous. So he talks fast. Throughout my story, I mention “Gabe answered at full speed”, and “The longer he talked, the faster he got”. He also has a habit of drumming his hands on any handy surface when he’s really nervous.
A petty crook has “a voice as deep and rocky as an abandoned mine”. Later he speaks in his “basement voice.”
One thing I can’t do is use dialogue tags to describe the voice, like “roared”, “squeaked”, or “hissed.” And it’s definitely out to use adverbs, such as “she said sternly” or “he said weakly.” I can use “whisper” or “shout” or “yell”, sparingly, to indicated volume, but since minimizing dialogue tags is the style now, it’s better to convey the sound of the voice through either the dialogue itself or actions that accompany it.
I have a character who runs a notoriously wild bar and may be engaged in illegal activities there. So he doesn’t like the police. When the sheriff shows up at his bar to investigate a possible crime, he says, “‘Get lost, Acker.’ Mr. Ferrick flung an arm at the patrol car.”
Since I have already established Ferrick doesn’t like the police, his action conveys how he sounds when he speaks to them.
Another area I can use to evoke sound is nature. My book is set in the mountains of eastern West Virginia, so I have a great opportunity to make a scene come alive with sound.
I’ll discuss that next time.