Continuing on with my previous posts related to the senses, today’s writing prompt (page 17 of Room to Write) delves into sound. Writers benefit from being good listeners, so Bonni Goldberg asks us to comment on what we hear in any one of 3 ways:
1. Listing sounds we love or hate;
2. Describing the sounds we hear around us now; or,
3. Developing a dialogue that employs purposeful rhythm in accentuating the subject and tone of the conversation.
I think I’m going to dapple in the first two for now, though I’d like to challenge myself with the third sometime soon and will update this when I do so.
1. Sounds I love: the melodic vocals of the song birds that wake me and sing me lullabies in the summer. The crisp Pffftt when someone opens a can of soda. A genuine belly laugh gurgled from a niece or nephew. The satisfying crackle of a fire, or cereal just submerged in milk. The fluid ripples of a harp. The melancholy of piano music. The tap-tapping of corpulent rain drops on the rooftop. A tongue clicking…once. The ting of wind chimes and crystal. Ocean waves and the way their foam sizzles through the pebbles. Sounds I hate: TV commercials that blare louder than the shows they invade. The dull thuds of neighbors existing above and around me in apartment buildings. Car alarms. Phones and classroom bells ringing. Cheesy R&B vocals and the ootz-ootz-ootz of dance club music. Buzzers. Car horns. The creaking of my desk chair. Human voices babbling too loudly on public transportation. Belches, and the laughter that follows them.
2. What I hear now: Echoes of children’s voices undulate on the air as it carries their afternoon playtime imaginings across the square. The steady pulse of a car or building alarm cuts through persistently with a piercing beep that makes my left eardrum throb and contract. The hum and buzz of street traffic ebbs and flows with the Doppler Effect as cars and lorries approach and flee, the road too stop-and-go to allow continuous whirring and vrooming to meld into the whooshing roar of a waterfall that could let me remotely imagine I am amidst and one with nature. The upstairs neighbors return with thumping and scuffling on carpeted stairs and a child’s commentary on the school day before jangling keys swing and collide as one of their own unlocks the door with a heavy click muted by friction. The thumping continues overhead, plodding about more swiftly with a child finding freedom back in her home quarters and is soon accompanied by scuffs and skids and creaks. All the while, I hear the clacking of the keyboard keys beneath my fingers as they yield and either stomp out letters in quick succession like the notes of a piano concerto (clicking and space-barring to a waltz, perhaps) or pause with the dreaded silence of a writer’s hesitation…a silence that is not quiet, but containing the overlapping tracks of sound previously described; a silence that a writer fortunately does not always hear when seeking out the soundscape of her storyworld.
As I attempt to quiet all the sounds and voices, real and imagined, swarming in my mind so that I can concentrate on reading for a while, I’ll close with this little tribute to onomatopoeia: