6 hours ago
10 September 2009
When Silence Speaks
My dog has bionic hearing. I guess that's to be expected, being that her ears are so big. They are her best feature, after all, something I remind her often. Lassie taught me that dogs can hear well beyond that which a human can, and Mitsi has taught me to believe it. She knows when the UPS man is over a mile away (and doesn't stop barking until he leaves). Sometimes, when it's completely silent, she'll rear up and look around, ears twitching at what only she can hear. Her favorite toys are small squeak toys, which she leaves lying around everywhere so we can step on them. It's a booby trap, because if we step on them and she finds out, we're committed to a rousing game of fetch. Sometimes, she'll be in the other room and I'll step on her favorite, the blue stuffed hippo. Miraculously, it doesn't squeak, just tumbles softly as cloth flips over carpet. Within a nanosecond, I hear the bell-like sound of a collar and my poodle races around the corner, ready to play.
Mitsi understands sound. It's a major part of her life and how she interprets the world.
How does your novel sound? What can you hear inside of it? Do the words work? The descriptions? How do they come alive when spoken aloud? This summer, I spent a week reading my current manuscript aloud. By the end I'd almost lost my voice, but it was the best editing tool I could have used. I was able to spot so much simply by reading it a different way. It's probably the most effective method I could ever recommend.
What kind of sounds do you use when you write? How do characters speak to each other? What happens when they walk outside? How are they distracted? What sounds calm them?
What about silence?
I started thinking about that last week as I finished re-reading Harry Potter. It had been a while since I'd read the series, and I wanted to read them before I saw movie #6. This time I was struck by how Rowling used silence in her books, how in the middle of an intense conversation where everything was at stake, one character would ask a question and the other character wouldn't respond verbally. At first it was Harry, demanding that Dumbledore tell him more than he was ready to hear. But in the final book, Harry employed this technique as well with those around them.
And what was said in that silence was so much more profound than any words she could have written for him.
As writers, we are wordsmiths. We weave plot and dialogue and description, all with words. Sometimes, however, the most powerful thing we can do is stay quiet.
How do you show silence in your writing?
See y'all Tuesday!!!