Sounding Your Story
What does sounding your story mean? There are a couple of ways I could go with this but I choose to go with the idea of putting sound into a story. A story that has no sound can be sterile and dull.
Jimmy scurried about picking up papers that were due on his boss’ desk at 9:00. When he glanced at the grandfather clock it showed 8:25. Damn, he was going to be late – again.
The slow click-clop of the grandfather clock mocked Jimmy as he scurried about picking up papers due on his boss’ desk at 9:00. Through the open window, he heard distance sirens; a sure sign traffic would be heavier than normal. He glanced at the antique clock, it showed 8:25. Damn, he was going to be late – again.
Which of the two passages above do you find more interesting? The first, while conveying what the reader needs to know, seems dry. The second tells more of the story. The “slow click-clop” adds a dimension to the passage – the clock is marking the passage of time. “Sirens in the distance,” shows there is a world outside his little environment that he must contend with. The sirens give a strong motivation for his next action, “He glanced at the clock.”
Janice stepped onto the ice. It cracked and caused her heart to skip a beat. She could hear the thing behind her. There was no choice. It was coming. She had to keep moving. She lay flat on the ice and began scooting towards the center.
Janice stepped onto the ice. Each step sounded a spidery crackle that ran in every direction. Her heart pumped a rapid cadence against her eardrums. Behind her, heavy breathing intermixed with deep vibrating growls coated the sound of footsteps grinding the leaf litter on the forest floor. All at once, limbs splintered as the thing pushed through the last few feet of undergrowth. There was no choice. It was coming. Janice lay flat on the ice and began scooting towards the center. More crackling greeted her ears joining a high pitched grind as fabric rubbed against the rough ice.
Adding some of the sounds Janice is hearing, multiplies the intensity. It adds another layer of fear – a bigger fear than moving out on thin ice. We don’t know what pursues her. Even though we have the sense she feels fear, nowhere in the passage is that word used. Sounds can bring that fear to life. Giving it reason for being, showing evidence of its being. Silence may be golden, but life is not silent. Things don’t happen in a vacuum. Bring the sounds of life into your work.