by Pat Phillips West
Describe a place – either a street, your house, a particular room in your house, a grocery store, coffee shop, a crime scene, an auto garage – and focus on the sounds you hear. Other senses may kick in as you list the sounds, so include those as well.
Give the reader an unexpected sound as Dorothy Parker does here:
His voice was as intimate as the rustle of sheets.
Or mix things up by writing a description that uses one sense to describe another one as she does in:
Don’t look at me in that tone of voice.
In this excerpt from Jimmy Santiago Baca’s memoir, A Place to Stand, notice the way he layers the sounds.
I don’t remember much before the age of five; my memories are of Grandma and Grandpa Baca in the kitchen, whispering sleepily as the coffee pot percolates on the woodstove; at night, their voices become guarded, talking about Father’s drinking, concerned by Mother’s absence, and worried that there’s never enough money. People come and go; behind their conversations, a Motorola radio under the cupboards by the sink drones Mexican corridos or mass rosaries.
To read more, go to the publisher’s website.
Even if you are standing alone in the kitchen, the fridge is cycling on and off, the birds chatter outside the window, a neighbor drags in a trash can or the dog scratches at the door. What would you – or your character – hear? Make your scenes hum.
Pat Phillips West moved so often even her closest friends asked if she was in the Witness Protection Program. She refused to comment, except to say she’s in Portland, OR, for now. Her poems appear or will appear in Imagination & Place: Weather, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher6, Manzanita Writers Press, San Pedro River Review and elsewhere.