Hear That? – Sound Descriptions Add Impact to Your Writing

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We talked last week about using colors to enhance your writing descriptions. This week I would like to discuss how you can use sounds to add impact to your descriptions. Any time you use physical sensations to describe things in your writing, you are hitting upon strong reactions from the readers and using sounds is no exception to that.


In describing sounds in your writing, try to fit in what your character hears, not that they heard it. Use strong descriptive words to get that across – a chair doesn’t just fall over – it clatters. Using words that sound like that which they are describing – also known as onomatopoeia – can add even more: “The chair clattered to the floor with a bang … bang …BANG!”


Think about movie scores. They are a powerful source of emotion to the action on the screen. In movies, you also have the Foley Artist that adds sounds to the action on the screen – perhaps a tinkling of glasses or the sound of shoes scraping along a dusty road – all things that enhance the action. You can do this in your writing too.

  1. Natural sounds are perhaps the easiest to include in your writing, such as the sounds of birds calling or leaves rustling. Natural sounds bring the reader into the scene and show the reader where the character is rather than telling them about it.


  1. Another way of including sounds in your writing is an “expressive sound.” That is altering a normal sound to show how the character perceives the sound. An example might be the ringing of a doorbell that becomes louder and louder in the character’s perception until they are obliged to answer the door. This type of sound increases the tension and shows the character’s anxiety and panic at what is happening in the scene.


  1. Lastly, sounds can be imagined, also known as “surreal sounds.” Sounds that occur in the character’s imagination – perhaps envisioning the roar of a crowd or classmates that are laughing at them. Writers can show this in their stories to emphasize what is going on in the head of their character.

Use sounds carefully in your writing. Be judicious in using sounds so as not to have the repeated effect be one of triteness. You don’t want to have your writing have a “comic book” effect.

Nevertheless, describing sounds can be a powerful way to connect with your readers about feelings, places, and experiences they have had.

This week as you write, think about including sounds your character might hear – sounds that might have an emotional, symbolic, or significant impact on the character.

I’d love to have you share what you think! Feel free to comment below.

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