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Wednesday, 5 May 2010


I just tried to describe the noise it makes when you do that thing, you know, when you flibble your lower lip with your finger while going 'errrrrr'.  It's surprisingly hard.  Like trying to describe the smell of cheese without resorting to the words 'feet' or 'unwell'.  You know, this writing lark is harder than it looks.

Take the smell of freshly dried laundry.  I think it smells of fresh air and sunshine, my husband swears it smells like off milk.  Now, one of us is clearly wrong (and he can't help it), but it made me think.  When I, as a writer, write a description of something, how many people out there are going 'nooooo!  You are so completely wrong! You are wronger than a very wrong thing on wrong day!'  I think we all know that the accepted sound of a ruler being pinged on a desk is 'bdddddrrrrrr' don't we?  But some people swear it goes 'thuddddpppp'.  Maybe we have a desk/ruler fabrication material problem, I mean, a wooden ruler on a wooden desk is going to have more of the 'bddrrrrr', but a plastic ruler on a metal-Formica table top might have a 'tzzzznnng' note to it.

But I don't intend to write passages that start out 'The ruler, which was made of a cheap wood, hit the metal-framed but plastic topped desk with a sound like an android being slapped'.  I write romances, and therefore I am generally not concerned with the particular construction materials used during the fabrication of articles of furniture - I want to use the ruler/desk sound without having to resort to passages which sound like I've been reading the IKEA catalogue.

So, I think that we should arrive at 'Standard Issue Sound Effects for Writers'.  Hence:

Bottom Smacking - thwwaakk
Jaw Punching - keerrrack
Diving into water (deep) - spplalunk
Diving into water (shallow) - shhshlash
Ruler against table (wooden) - bddrrrrrr
Ruler against table (metal) - thwwwinngg

This Standardisation approach will simplify life both for the writer (who will have a consultatory document to aid in choice of sound effect, possibly with an add-on CD for extra assistance) and the reader (who can be directed to said document and/or CD in matters arising from an accusation of an improperly applied sound description).

I rest my case.  With a kind of 'hmmftttggg' sound, the case being leather and it being rested on a composite surface.


Chris Stovell said...

May I suggest another addition to the Writers' Sound Lexicon; 'Aaahmmnfnarfnarf' for consumption of essential nutrient (ie chocolate) to keep Writer's Brain in smooth running order?

Jane Lovering said...

I'll add that to the list, Chris. Perhaps you'd like to do the sound sample for the CD?

Chris Stovell said...

It's a tough job, but.... :)

Jane Lovering said...

I'm sure you're the woman for it!