Something my daughter said yesterday sparked this blog post. We sat outside, reading on our porch swing when she huffed and puffed.
“I can’t concentrate!” she nearly exploded. “There’s too much noise.”
I set my book on my lap and listened. “Hmmm,” I said. “I see what you mean. Let’s pretend we can silence every noise.”
“Quiet, bird!” my daughter ordered.
“Quite, trucks and cars and train, whistling into the station,” I said.
“Quiet, squeaky springs in this swing bench,” my daughter ordered.
“Quiet, gusty wind, and balmy breezes,” I added. “And while we’re at it, let’s quiet the footsteps and chatter of our neighbors, walking their dogs,” I said.
“Quiet, dogs!” my daughter said.
Next, I quieted myself. Even when my daughter asked questions, I said nothing.
“Talk to me!” she said. “I changed my mind. I don’t like all this quiet.”
Of course, we don’t have the power to remove all the sounds in the world.
But in pretending we were magical enough to evoke silence, I helped my daughter realize how important sound is and how easily we tune it out. The thud, thud, thud of jeans in the dryer, the soft blub, blub, blub of the fish tank filter, the soft, wheezy, breathing of my dog, sleeping behind me on my chair. Sounds are all around us–constantly.
As a writer, I often feel like I enter into moments like a deaf person given the gift of hearing, or a blind person given the gift of sight. The symphony of sounds surrounding us is a great gift. Tune in today and as you listen, make a mental list of the sounds you hear.
A note to writers: When including sounds in your work, let those sounds bring meaning to your writing. Let the sounds reveal something about your characters. Does the train whistle remind Charlotte of her vacation in Italy when, because she missed her stop, she met the man of her dreams? Does the warm breeze take Robert back to the beach where he proposed to his wife fifteen years ago?
The random mentioning of sound in a book serves as dead filler. Bring sound to life by connecting it to your characters.