Sounds and silence

Bringing in the senses to our writing adds a layer of richness and anchors the setting. It also grounds the character in that setting. It can emphasise an awkward gap in actions between characters, or provide a dialogue beat that isn’t “he said/she said”.

But what sounds could you bring in? Surely most people’s lives don’t have a lot of sound apart from the odd car, airplane overhead or kids shouting?

I live near a small village in France and we are still in lockdown at the moment, so you’d think it would be really quiet and peaceful with no sounds interrupting my thoughts, deeds and writing. I ran an experiment to test this. I reckoned I’d note down half a dozen sounds max then get on with my day.

Was I wrong!

Here are a few from this morning…

Gurgle of the central heating  boiler and pump*
Soft hum of traffic on the main road right at the end of our road*
The fridge burbling in the kitchen*
Birds chirruping outside*
The shriek of a crow*
The neighbour’s gate clanging shut as he goes out for his morning walk.
Footsteps on tiled floors
The loo flushing
The swish of nets brushed along the curtain rails to get to the window handles.
Click of metal against wood of the window handles twisting and opening, then clicking and snapping as they are closed.
The window shutter catches creaking, then un-oiled shutter hinges squeaking followed by the shutter leaves clattering against the outside walls and the retaining hasps grating against the wood.*

Kettle boiling for the first morning cup of tea
Door handles opening
Light switch clicked on
Shower water falling and the bathroom ventilator thrumming*
Kitchen tap running hard, battering down into the sink
Coffee machine gurgling in ever rising tones*
Fridge door sucking open, then squelching shut
Cereal cascading into a bowl
Milk poured on top
The jangling inside the cutlery drawer as it’s opened

All this and it isn’t even 8 o’clock yet! Nor has the neighbour got his leaf sweeper out.

Looking at this list, I realise I have used those marked with an asterisk* in my Roma Nova novels. 🙂 How strange.

When you’re looking for a noise to fill or interrupt an action in your books, listen to what’s going on around you. You’d be surprised what you can use!


Updated November 2021: Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series.Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. Double Pursuit, the sequel, is now out!

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

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