If you have any writing set in nature, describing the sounds of that setting is critical. Nature is never silent, so don’t pass up a chance to add sound imagery (that seems like an oxymoron) to your writing.
The setting for my novel is in the eastern mountains of West Virginia. My main character lives miles from the nearest neighbors. Someone living that close to nature would notice its sounds.
If my plans don’t fall apart, I will revisit that location, so I can get first-hand observations. Until then, I can do research with field guides and look up the songs and call of local birds and other animals.
Whether your setting is forest, fields, desert, mountains, or beach, here are some questions to ask yourself so you can describe the correct sounds.
What time of year is it? If you are writing about a temperate climate, the season will affect the sounds. My novel takes place in July, so the animals actively making noises then may not be the same ones as in the spring.
What time of day is it? I have a scene where my main character is sneaking around his family’s property at night, checking for intruders. I’m looking forward to hiking in the mountains at that time so I can make this scene accurate.
What are the weather conditions? My novel starts in a rain shower — lot of opportunity for sound descriptions. It’s also been very wet, so the wind blowing through a soaked forest would sound different from one that is suffering from drought.
And don’t forget the flip side of all that sound. If a natural scence suddenly gets quiet or even silent, it means something significant is happening or about to happen.
Two weather conditions that can aid you in describing quiet are snow and fog. Snow seems to soften everything, both visually and audibly, if fierce winds don’t accompany it. Fog has a contradictory effect. It muffles, but since fog can’t exist with wind, it also allows you to pinpoint the directions of sounds more easily.
Whatever your natural setting, be sure to explore it with your ears as well as your eyes.