Thursday, April 1, 2010

Roaring Seashells

Effective writers write using all of their senses. We think about thick grass in summertime, the taste of sweat after a hard workout, and the sound of bike tires on gravel trails. The challenge comes when we attempt to describe these things in fresh ways. Building imagery with strong sensory details is difficult to do without sounding cliche - bang! tweet! crack.



Sister Mary Louise Glonek sets a powerful example of writing with effective, yet fresh, detail.

I like the quiet crackling of root beer foam; the swish, then flap of the net as the basketball passes through...squeaky popcorn; slept-on mattress... moccasins treading soft sand, crisp as toasted linen; steel door weightlessly slammed shut; secret roar of a seashell; whirr of a movie reel; the ps-s-s-t of freshly opened coffee... whirr and buzz of the WALK signal; a Band-Aid coming off...creaky wicker chairs...
(taken from Writing to be Read)

Sound is a complex element of storytelling. Play with it - experiment.

* Invent new ways to say things based on how you think the sounds translate to letters.
*Collect fun examples of sensory details when you read the work of others.
* Listen to the ways small children describe things.
* Watch cartoons for a while.

Do you have a favorite "collecting" strategy?

30 comments:

Courtney Barr - The Southern Princess said...

Love the watch cartoons (don't have kids but we watch way too many cartoons..big kids at heart ;o) )

a lovely concept and one I work on all the time. ;o)

Visit My Kingdom Anytime

Stephanie Thornton said...

Squeaky popcorn- I like that!

I drove my husband nuts in Egypt and Greece- I was always pulling out my notepad to jot down sensory details. Everything was just alive!

L. T. Host said...

I try and store things as memories (I have a very vivid memory, and imagination) and then when I need them for writing, I pull them up in my mind and twist them to fit my needs as a writer. It's like watching a movie of my book in my head, and I just describe what's going on in the movie. That probably doesn't make any sense, haha, but it works for me.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I'm never without one of those tiny notebooks that fit in a pocket or purse. So when I notice something, I scribble it down. The trick is to be aware.

Patti said...

flap of a basketball net is my favorite.

This is definitely something I need to work on.

TerryLynnJohnson said...

I only get one TV channel, so no cartoons for me. But love this expressive post!

Bane of Anubis said...

nothing like a *swish*

sarahjayne smythe said...

Great post. I'm going to have to work on sounds in my writing. For some reason I usually forget about them. :)

Shelley Sly said...

Ooh I like this! Sometimes when I write a sound, I just write it like I hear it, regardless if it makes sense. In one of my books, a door unlocks with a ker-chunk sound, which is just something I heard in my head and wrote down.

Kayeleen said...

I have two toddlers. They are an endless source of sounds and other sensory data. The world is new to them, so everything is exciting.

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said...

I try to write with all five senses but now that you point it out I realize that sound is probably the one I use least. Hmmm. Maybe because I can't hear anything over the cacophony of voices in my head?

Cleverly Inked said...

I love the secret roar of the seashell. Except it's no secret :P

Heather said...

I love using all the senses when I write. I think it really puts the reader in the story, makes them experience it. Sometimes when I'm describing a scene and having trouble I'll list off the senses like a mantra. It works! I just have to be careful not to overdo the description!

Lydia Kang said...

Great post, and great reminders to use those elements. I gave you a blog award, BTW.
;)

Cheree said...

I love taking note of the different sounds I hear. I can't go to a movie without paying attention to which sounds creates the best atmosphere and trying to figure out how to describe them.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Listening to the way children describe things is my favorite. It's right on and clever. It usually makes me giggle.

Steph Damore said...

Have you ever checked out the site writtensound.com? I love to use it when coming up with sounds for my stories.

Sandy Shin said...

Great post! I'm a minimalist in my writing, and have often been told I under describe. Definitely paying more attention to the sounds around me more in the future.

(Love the descriptions of "roaring seashells" -- one of my favorite childhood sounds.)

Jemi Fraser said...

Really nice descriptions :) Makes me want to go check my ms - awesome!

Jen said...

Amazing descriptions!!! Thanks for posting this!

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Reminds me of my Creative Writing class days when the teacher made us wear blindfolds and describe what we heard. :)

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

You always make me think! Thanks!

Tamika: said...

Reading. Lots of reading. I'm learning to pay attention to people around me, simple conversation and reflection brings beautiful images.

My daughter said to me the other day, "look Mom, a plane scratched the sky."

Now I just have to use that!

Susan Fields said...

Great suggestions! I struggle with fresh description all the time - it is sooo easy to fall into cliches. "Steel door weightlessly slammed shut" - wonderful!

Niki said...

I love the sound when I walk or drive through gravel. :o)

Zoe C. Courtman said...

Such an awesome post - LOVE the "crisp as toasted linen". I think it's so important to really be present with your characters as they experience something; if you're REALLY seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling what they are, then you won't write cliched description. Great post!

Patti Lacy said...

The trusty notebook. Was jotting lyrics at last night's Maundy Thursday service.

But sometimes, like on this Good Friday, words are not enough...

Blessings, dear one.
patti

Carolyn V. said...

Anything that is smelly. I like to collect them and add them to my books. Plus I think it adds a lot to the story. =) (the cartoon thing is good too).

Terresa said...

I liked this idea the most:

Listen to the ways small children describe things.

I have quite a few small children and hearing their version of the world around them Rocks. I keep kicking myself for not being more fully present at times with them, as their views/observations are So Fresh.

PS: Happy Easter to you & your family!!

AchingHope said...

Ooh... I love playing around with words. I should definitely start paying closer attention to that when reading other books.

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