Writing Sound

Today we have an exercise in sound. Now, there are several ways to incorporate sound in your writing; by way of similes, metaphors, onomatopoeias, etc. In my opinion, I lean towards using similes or metaphors more often than onomatopoeia because I find that onomatopoeia tends seem more childish, the clock goes tick, the horse says neigh, the horn went honk. I think that if you want to use words that mimic their sound, the sentence has to be a bit more complicated. When your sentence is more complicated and uses more educated words, certain onomatopoeic words blend well and add that sound effect the writer is looking for. I still think when I see something like:

Crash! The car skidded into the power box and sparks illuminated the hood in brilliant flashes.

sounds a little young, simply because of “Crash!” I think the writer’s goal is to surprise the reader and by making a one word sound/action it hooks the reader, but from a readers stand point I think a little bit more subtle hits me harder and grabs me. Instead try:

That’s when they crashed. The car skidded into a power box and sparks illuminated the hood in brilliant flashes.

It’s a statement and although the reader will take more time allowing the to figure it out before they finish the sentence, it works to build tension.

In other cases onomatopoeia works very well. You could argue that “skidded” from that sentence is onomatopoeic, the skid mimicking the tire vibration when the car slides and in this case it serves the sentence very well. Other not quite so blatant words like “plop”, “giggle”, and “sizzle”, when used well transform the mundane sentence into a well rounded sensory expirience.

But in no sentence does the word “buzz” belong.

Do you know of any instances where an onomatopoeic word worked well, or did not work at all?

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