Thursday, April 1, 2010

Auditory Detail

I'm participating in Arlee Bird's monthly blog project called the A to Z Blog Challenge. Here's my first entry in what I hope is going to be a fun endeavor.

I'm a very descriptive writer. I think it comes from being a storyteller for a live-action roleplaying group for several years. When you're weaving a tale aloud, immersing your participants in your story, the best way to suck them in is give them lots of little details which help them imagine what's going on. I like to focus on the senses of my characters. Every writer understands you must describe what your characters are seeing (after all, they're the lens you hold up to the world and invite your reader to look through), but do you concentrate on every sense your character has? I find myself leaning towards a lot of auditory description in my WIP.

Here's an example from a recent chapter:

"A long silence played out between them, filled with the soft summer song of birds twittering their good-nights and the long, low rush of cars passing by on the street beyond. The twilight deepened, thickening around them like gathered folds of velvet. Shouts of children echoed over the neatly manicured lawns in Jack’s neighborhood. Two yards down, the click-click-click-fisssssss of an automated lawn sprinkler whispered over and over in a mechanical monotone. At the end of Jack’s driveway, the streetlight’s transformer hummed as it began to power up for the evening."

When I wrote this, I wasn't thinking about what I was focusing on, or the fact that every sentence except for one in that paragraph is describing what the characters are hearing. I just wrote it. I was in the Zone, and you know how that is. You dump everything on the page and then come back later to see what you got. (Kind of like panning for gold.) But when I took these pages to writers' meeting, both Gail Gray and Brian K. Ladd mentioned how much they liked the different details I'd offered and it brought them even deeper into the story.

I love focusing on every sense the character has - the color of fistfuls of leaves on trees, the smell of baking grass in the hot summer air, the sensation of a prankish breeze playing cool fingers across prickly hot skin, the sound of insects singing in the reeds by a chuckling river, the taste of metal on your tongue as you drink cold water from the hose. Each sense we decide to focus on as writers gives the reader another map-marker which leads them deeper into the illusion we're creating.

What are some details you decide to focus on to bring your reader closer to your vision? What sort of extras do you weave into your prose?

14 comments:

sarahjayne smythe said...

Great post. I tend to focus close in on the character details. How they stand, hold their head, their arms, slide their eyes.

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Great post! I tend to weave in a lot of smells. Strange that I would do so seeing as I'm a musician too. It would probably make sense for me to focus on sound wouldn't it?

Mary McDonald said...

I try sprinkle in a variation. Sometimes it's sound and sight, or taste and smell, or sound and touch. You get the idea. It depends on the scene. For example, a kissing scene is better with touch, smell and taste. Sound, not so much unless there's music playing or a murderer is slipping up behind them. I don't want to describe the sound of the kiss, because that's kind of gross. lol. Now, little moans are fine. ;-)

Palindrome said...

I've been told I'm very good at metaphors. It's funny because when I write I don't think about writing, I'm in the zone as well. Then I look back at it and I'm like, I wrote that...weirdo. ;) great start to your challenge!

WELCOME TO MY WORLD OF POETRY: said...

Writing poetry I find people like to read about real life experiences
which I try to do.

Yours was a great first post for the challenge, enjoyed the read.

Yvonne.

Caledonia Lass said...

Oh, a fellow rpg'er. :D
I'll stop swooning now.
I guess I tend to focus on as many of the senses as I can. I also try to focus close in on the character as well, how they're standing, sitting, moving in general.
The looks on their faces as they stick their tongues out at the back of the protagonist... Heh.

I like that paragraph and I can see why it brought people in deeper to the story. You are immersing them completely and that is exactly the kind of book I love.

Great Challenge post!

Jen said...

I think this is an awesome post!! I love that you're taking on the challenge!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Great reminder! I try to remember all the senses, but I know I could do better.

Beth said...

I've never really thought about my writing. I just ... write! It's not something I have pursued professionally yet ... only my blog. I think this challenge will be interesting as it exposes me to others who write and the tools that they use to hone their craft! Cool post!

Piedmont Writer said...

Well now, I guess I have to go back to my WIP and put in the sounds and smells. Your paragraph was wonderful!!!

arlee bird said...

The passage you cite is really good-- I could literally hear in my head everything as you described it. Sound is so important. Cinematically speaking, I like the way David Lynch uses sound in his films to create the mood of the scene and the way the sound influences the characters. You presented this so skillfully that I'm really going to have to go back over what I've been working on and see if I've been fair to the five senses.
A very useful post.
Lee

Tamika: said...

Great job! I fell right in with the description!

My favorite sense is taste. Since I adore food it makes perfect sense to me!

Summer said...

I find myself concentrating on smell and feeling, like the humidity hanging in the air, or the prickle of wind across your arm. Something beyond just the visual cues...

Nice start to the A-Z challenge!

Rae said...

The taste of the metal hose brought back summer memories...
You're a talented writer and I'm going to enjoy your entire ABC's !!!