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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Sound of Words

My days are filled with music, literally, I hate the quiet of being home alone. Every day I listen to my yahoo jukebox or my ipod. I have no - zip, zilch, nada - talent for music. But I am certainly an admirer of it.

Yes, I did catch the premier of Idol last night... but that's a whole other post. *Minnehopeless* grumble, grumble.

Anyway, one of the chapters in First Five Pages focuses on sound. All writers know (or should know) that a strong voice is important.

There is a sound to prose; writing is not just about getting a story across, but also-if not mainly-about how you get there. Prose can be technically correct but rhythmically unpleasant. This is one of the distinctions between writing in general and writing as an art form. We've all encountered the ill-sounding sentence, but it just "sounds" wrong. Indeed, what I label sound may also be thought of as 'rhythm'.

I definitely agree with the above. I've read some good stories that unfortunately were just too weak in voice. The story was good enough for me to finish, but it lacked that extra umpf that made me want to run out and buy every book by that author - something I've done more than once.

Later in the chapter the author, Noah Lukeman, says the most common manifestations are sentence structure, echoes, alliteration, and resonance. Of those, awkward sentences probably drive me the craziest. I like to think I have a good ear for the sound of words, and bad structure sticks out like a big red flag.

What do you think? Do you notice the voice or sound of words when you read? How important is the "flow" of a story to you?

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Blogger Sabrina said...

That's when you whip out the red pen and scribble AWK next to a sentence. Heh. I'm guilty of that sometimes, usually because I know what I want to say, but just can't figure out how to say it. Luckily, someone in my writing group tends to catch it, but can only say it 'sounds awkward.'

I think the thing about sound or rhythm is that when it's done well, you don't notice it. It's much easier to note something that doesn't work, but if it's does, you're not going to stop reading in order to analyze it, although you might realize it afterward.

"First Five Pages" sounds like a pretty good book. I think I'll keep an eye out for it.

1:58 PM  
Anonymous writersgroupblog said...


Since this is one of the blogs I visit most, I wanted to invite you directly to be a Guest Blogger on The Writers' Block. You can view the "Looking for Guest Bloggers" post and let me know if you're interested. www.writersgroupblog.wordpress.com

And to answer the post questions: Yes, the voice is one of the most important parts of a piece, I believe. And if a story doesn't flow, it's troublesome to read; It may still be a good work, but it takes more time to get through.

6:18 PM  
Blogger Talia Mana, Centre for Emotional Well-Being said...

I love the sound of silence LOL. Today I have some classical music in the background but I find quiet very soothing. There's enough bouncing around in my brain without adding other stimulation!!!

I like a story to flow but the voice is important too. I like a unique voice, and I like to be able to see the character of individuals without a lot of backstory or internal dialogue. I like to be "shown" what the person is like as a person. I don't really need to know their physical characteristics but I need to know how they would react in any given situation.

7:45 PM  
Anonymous Lswriter said...

Sound is terribly, terribly important to me. If a book has stilted writing, I can't finish it, and I never pick up anything by that author again.

I just bought The First Five Pages ... one of these days I'll days around to reading it ...

7:49 PM  
Blogger Susan Helene Gottfried said...

A world without music is a nightmare.

I can only handle no music when I'm outside. Ever stopped and listened?


8:08 PM  
Anonymous Tracey said...

I could not agree with you more. Words need to sound right to the ear - it is necessary to strike an appropriate rhythm with words when writing otherwise they just don't ring true. Nice post!

6:30 AM  
Blogger Bernita said...

Some words look wonderful, but sound terrible.
A good writer, I suppose, is able to blend.

6:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My friend and I were recently talking about the prevalence of technology in our day to day lives. Reading this post makes me think back to that debate we had, and just how inseparable from electronics we have all become.

I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Societal concerns aside... I just hope that as technology further develops, the possibility of copying our brains onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's a fantasy that I daydream about all the time.

(Posted on Nintendo DS running [url=http://cid-2602f0e287041cef.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!2602F0E287041CEF!106.entry]R4i SDHC[/url] DS NetBlog)

5:18 PM  

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