Batman delivering a justicesandwich


So, here’s a thing…

Sound effects and environmental noise in fiction. Growing up watching MTV cartoons and reruns of series like the above, I’m a sucker for a well-placed sound effect. Thud, Thunk, Thwap (lots of Th-s’). I know that it’s generally regarded as a sign of juvenilia, but it’s fun.

It also breaks up the-


Ouch, sorry about that-narrative. This is a good and a bad thing. In military fiction you can try to emulate Jason Bourne-style action scenes. To my shame I haven’t read any wuxia novels, and I wonder if sound effects scatter them like grammatical landmines.

Sound effects lend themselves to pulpy works – but shouldn’t be restricted to them, right? Noise, static, crescendos or murmurs are a part of the arsenal of any creative writer – just as much as character development and emotional tells are.

“What appears to be the problem?” says the clinical psychologist.

“One day I heard a voice say Thud, and that was about it….”

The Rosenhan Experiment.

Grammar is something to be played with. Comix in particular has its whole history dedicated to exploring onomatopoeia.

Buy what about when it comes to environmental noises? Avalanches, gun-shots, or smartphones? The northern hemisphere is filled with the sound of blips, beeps, trrings, tinkles, vurr-vurrs (that’s a vibrating something, obvs). I guess we have to ask whether the sounds are important, and what counts as important to any scene – longform, visual, or short. But it’s still fun to play with those questions.

More food for thought – Silent/Wordless Graphic Novels.

Onto a small pet peeve of mine, which would be the depiction of automated voices. It’s a personal frustration because it entirely relates to the many, many different ways I have tried to depict it in the past, and how I am constantly searching for a good, uh, ‘audio-narrative’??

alien-cyborg, by zerojs

“I can’t do that Dave,” says Hal, declaring itself to be a character with speechifying agency.

‘I can’t do that Dave’ Professor David Bowman hears, removing agency, turning Hal into an implacable environmental force.

Some times and in some novels I err on using italics for all automated noise…a kind of nudge and a wink to the reader that everything in that style sounds different. Like interjecting a different typeface for a newspaper or academic report in the middle of a scene. One of the mysterious, telepathic things about writing is that it’s not just a lexical art, right? Take a look at some modern poetry. It can almost be a graphical art sometimes. At other times I give agency to everything that, uh, speaks. Which raises the important question of cultural/outsider depiction…what about mute characters (whether human or not)? What about non-human-intelligible characters (animals, supernaturals, more-than-human)?

Anyway. *yawn* Thud.




Counting Down the Days