Friday, July 17, 2009

Listen and You Will Hear...Comments on Writing Sound

A Dragon hears everything. We have auditory organs of phenomenal/ wondrous/enviable capacity. A drop of water, a thunderous surf, a splattering of rain--s'all a roar in a Dragon's mighty eardrum. Resounding, echoing, a rich froth of air compressions drifting/wafting/racing from one point of the moment/the space/the spot within existence where it originated, to the receptacle of one's inner ear where it becomes a meaningful density/reality/truth to ye olde brain. Sound...touching without touching. The invisible expression of a happening.

Even so...not every Dragon listens to the world about him/her/it. Being able to hear--and hearing--are two different things. As a writing Dragon, it behooves me to overcome the distractions that draw my attention from hearing and settle down to listen to the world that I may write about the world. At least about its sounds. Sounds have been made visible in the written word. Actual sounds: ahh (a reaction to something cute), beep (an annoying horn sound), boo (a ghost speaks), burp (a good meal speaks), caw (crow lip), chirp (bird talk), clip (scissors at work), clomp (a walking horse), clunk (a dropped bucket), ding-dong (a doorbell, or an idiot...), eek (fright), fizz (Dr. Pepper speak), gong (a resounding bell tone), hiccup (too much to drink), hiss (snake speak), ick (something nasty), meow (cat talk), moo (cow compliant), oink (pig talk), plonk (something dropped? Splattered?), pop (a wine bottle opened), quack (a duck rather than a fake doctor), rat-a-tat (a...trumpet??), ring (a telephone---unless it spits out a song instead of a 'ring'), splat (a bug on a windshield), swoosh (me flying by very rapidly), tap (a cane on a sidewalk), tick (clock speak), toot (a horn or a fart), varoom (me flying by even more rapidly), whirr (hummingbird wings), whomp (an elephant stomp, or--in my books, this is the sound of my mighty wings flapping), woof (dog speak), yikes (fear comment), yip (tiny dog speak), zap (electric shock).

Those are our interpretations/explanations/elucidations of 'actual' sounds. Descriptions of sounds are fun as well: bawl (the act of sobbing), belch (the act of burping) get the picture; however, those are another discussion. Sounds, the making of and the hearing of in the written sense, can be quite nice beyond the mere clipped presentation of a single word. One doesn't want to overwelm with an aggressive adjective or an audacious adverb, but there's nothing wrong with a little activating nudge of word play to enhance a written sound. That enhancement can determine the very meaning/implication/connotation of an otherwise simplistic sound. Let us try a few...

A melodious ahh...a strangled ahh...a breathy ahh...a sharp ahh---each descriptive tag lends the 'ahh' a different emotional value. How about a bodacious boo...a piercing boo...a wailing boo...a muted boo. Or, a riotous burp...a cavernous endless burp...a growling burp...a gurgling burp...a bone-breaking burp---oh, those provide a plethora of images/visuals/mental illustrations of the belchee (or is it belcher?) in action! Now--a Dragon burp could well be called a volcanic burp.

A caw can be grating, spine crawling, hair raising, irritating... An unpleasant sound, a caw, so I personally would not assign it more kindly venue---however, perhaps someone else would not be uncomfortable with a soft caw, a quiet caw, an agreeable caw, or even an amusing caw.

The very mood of a sentence can be styled by the manner in which a sound is expressed. A chilling clomp, a frantic stomp, a heart jerking bang, a fragile fizz, a soothing effervesce, a hideous hiccup, a bowel clinching hiss, a mournful moo, a resounding splat, a grin making toot, a sizzling zap, a treeeeembling drip.

Oh, sound can be a veritable scene maker/image builder/mood elevator in one's story. Allow the reader to hear what the characters hear, to respond to what their surroundings and actions would generate in a real world of wafting air compressions. writing wizards, be you human or otherwise, do not overdo the making, the building, the elevating. There is seldom need for more than one enhancing 'tag' to enrich the written sound. Avoid the "huge noxious gaseous throat-rattling up-from-the-depths of the gut burp"...t'is a wee bit overdone and by the time the reader realizes one speaks of an esophageal feat, they've lost track of the tale's direction! [NOTE: If, however, this elongated burpal description is the writer's style or voice, if it falls within the overall format of the novel, t'is perfectly acceptable!]

Write on ye lovers of words and tales, stories and make-believe and what might have been, but wasn't. Pluck the wealth of the physical world out of reality and into your imagination, and sprinkle what you've plucked like petals over your pretend world. Listen, and you will hear...

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