Adding Sounds to Scenes is a Sound Practice

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I finished reading Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days. I have AND will highly recommend it to anyone who dabbles in fiction. It’s one of the best “how to” books I’ve ever read.

—Marsha Hubler, Director Montrose Christian Writers Conference

See more about Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days at the end of the post.

Writers know how important it is that their characters use their five senses in stories. Last month, I spoke about scents and tastes. Today, we’ll focus on sounds. Unlike scents and tastes, sound verbs and types seem to be limitless.

Creating Words for Sounds

Some readers enjoy a created word for a sound, such as ba-lop. Other readers dislike this practice and prefer writers use the commonly accepted words for sounds, such as bang. You or your publisher may have a preference as to whether you create the sound in a scene, use a commonly accepted word, or tell the sound.


Casey ran full speed toward Sam. Ba-lop! Sam looked up from the ground, trying to regain his breath. “Why … did … you … tackle me?”

Casey ran full speed toward Sam. Bam! Sam looked up from the ground, trying to regain his breath. “Why … did … you … tackle me?”

Casey ran full speed toward Sam and collided with him in a loud thud. Sam looked up from the ground, trying to regain his breath. “Why … did … you … tackle me?”

Whether a commonly used sound is listed in dictionaries varies among dictionaries. One dictionary had bang but not bam. Another dictionary included both.

If I make up a word for a sound, I treat it as if it’s an uncommonly encountered foreign word. I write it in italics the first time I use the sound.

Types of Sounds and Examples

I’ll leave spoken words and interjections to dialogue and concentrate on other sources of sounds.

image by Pezibear
  • Engine: rasped, grated, clanked, purred, rattled
  • Liquid: splashed, dripped, plunked, babbled, crashed
  • Vocal: bawled, giggled, mumbled, chattered, blubbered
  • Walking: crunched gravel, swished through leaves, stomped, padded, shuffled
  • Air or Breathing: belched, gasped, swooshed, coughed, wheezed
  • Animal and insect: buzzed, hissed, whinnied, fluttered, woofed
  • Metallic: clanged, clinked, dinged, clanked, pealed
  • House: creaked, squeaked, groaned, shutters flapped, chinked
  • Hushed: sighed, whispered, fizzed, whirred, shushed
  • Rhythmic: puttered, rat-tat-tatted, pitter-pattered, trilled, clip-clopped
  • Staccato: hail stones pinged, popcorn popped, the alarm bleeped, stiletto heels tapped
  • Continuous or lengthy: rumbled, moaned, boomed, droned, yowled

For more example of sounds, ask online for examples in the above types of sounds.

Examples of Verbs That Introduce Sounds

image by GDJ
  • Emitted
  • Blasted
  • Sounded
  • Echoed
  • Reverberated
  • Discharged
  • Emanated
  • Expelled
  • Issued
  • Radiated
  • Released
  • Sent
  • Spewed
  • Transmitted
  • Thrummed
  • Wailed
  • Screamed
  • Roared
  • Clashed
  • Spattered

Examples of Sound Adjectives

image by geralt
  • Raucous
  • Brassy
  • Whiny
  • Dulcet
  • Lilting
  • Musical
  • Deafening
  • Piercing
  • Sharp
  • Blaring
  • Muffled
  • Rustling

What are sounds you use for cooking?

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Zoe McCarthy’s book, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, is a fresh and innovative refocusing of your novel or novella. Through a few simple—and fun—steps, Zoe helps writers take their not-ready-for-publication and/or rejected manuscripts to a spit-polish finish. Writing is hard work, yes, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. —Eva Marie Everson, best-selling and multiple award-winning author, conference director, president of Word Weavers International, Inc.

If you want to increase your chance of hearing yes instead of sorry or not a fit for our list at this time, this book is for you. If you want to develop stronger story plots with characters that are hard to put down, this book is for you. Through McCarthy’s checklists and helpful exercises and corresponding examples, you will learn how to raise the tension, hone your voice, and polish your manuscript. I need this book for my clients and the many conferees I meet at writer’s conferences around the country. Thank you, Zoe. A huge, #thumbsup, for Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days.  —Diana L. Flegal, literary agent, and freelance editor

Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript is a self-editing encyclopedia! Each chapter sets up the targeted technique, examples show what to look for in your manuscript, then proven actions are provided to take your writing to the next level. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, you need this book! —Sally Shupe, freelance editor, aspiring author

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American Christian Fiction Writers

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  1. Erin Unger

    Great post, Zoe! Writing sounds is very important.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Erin, as I wrote this, it made me want to use more original sounds!

  2. Sally Jo Pitts

    Awesome list of sounds!

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Thanks, Sally. I printed off the list and more to store with my writing checklist.

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