Thursday’s Children March 21, 2013

Before anything else, I must congratulate three Thursday’s Children who’ve had exciting news this week!

Laura Oliva has launched her debut novel ALL THAT GLITTERS. Woot! She’ll be doing a guest spot here on my blog on Friday. I think even those of us attempting to go the traditional publishing route can benefit from her pointers about organization and promotion. I keep hearing pub houses have skimpy budgets for debut authors…

Jessie Devine is now an associate editor at Entranced Publishing. Yay!

Louise Gornall has revealed the cover of her book IN STONE!

Congratulations to you all! I’m looking forward to hearing more about…everything.

Inspired by Background Noise

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

A weekly blog hop where writers share their inspirations. Please join us!

The idea for this post came from two different sources.

There was last week’s post about winter surfing, which led to a comment which led to a reply, wherein I mentioned that hearing ocean waves makes my heart beat faster. And a couple of months ago there was a conversation with an agent  – not the agent whose offer I accepted. She talked about audio-books  Someone she knows produces them with “background noise” — soundtracks that weave in and out of the narration. She imagined ocean waves for TENDRIL because it’s set on the Maine coast and the sea definitely plays an active role in the story. (And I would add the occasional foghorn too, because my fictitious Frost Island is frequently fog-bound).

Something along the lines of 

Waves are the omnipresent background noise during my daily walks on the beach, when I’m most often thinking about writing. Depending on the weather, I sometimes hear them at my house when I’m actually writing too. A few months from now we’ll be moving and I might need to resort to a wave soundtrack for my computer…

My childhood soundtrack included mourning doves. They’re called that because of their doleful coos. But I never think of them as sad sounds, instead they remind me of lazy summer mornings, where the day stretched out ahead of me, waiting to be filled by my imagination. I still get that same “anything’s possible” feeling whenever I hear them.

Mourning Dove Coo

My husband thought they were owls… Guess his childhood soundtrack was different.

Owl hoots sound quite different, and give me a wild and spooky sort of sensation.

During my twenties, my soundtrack was urban. Lots of sirens, car horns, club music, and an apartment-building neighbor with an obsession.  Think Hitchcock’s Rear Window, the comic version. “You still deliver, right?…Great. I’ll have the Shrimp Egg Foo Yong, Kung Pao Shrimp, Shrimp with Spicy Garlic Sauce, and the Sweet and Sour Shrimp, oh and some Shrimp Lo Mein…” Every. Single. Saturday. All shrimp, all the time.

Background noise in a book can convey a sense of place, time of day, season, and emotional atmosphere. Maybe the same sound has different connotations for different characters in the same story. Let’s say the MC lives near the train tracks. The sound of clacking and whooshing fills him with guilty excitement as he fantasizes escaping his snarky wife and bratty children. To his neighbor on the other side of the tracks, the same noise induces gut-wrenching despair as she recalls the day her son tried train-hopping with tragic results. Anticipating the train, hearing the train, ratchets up those emotions.

Perhaps even a seemingly innocent but constant background noise like a bouncing basketball, a barking dog, or the snapping of chewing gum could  drive someone over the edge. Or maybe a familiar sound could pull someone back from it. Warning: do NOT snap gum around me.

What’s the background soundtrack to your writing? To the story you’re telling? What feelings do these sounds inspire in your characters? Your readers?

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43 thoughts on “Thursday’s Children March 21, 2013

  1. Funny – our inspiration is similar this week. Congratulations to all of those with good news! And yay! I got the Linky to work.

    The white noise for my book has to be the hum of the leaves in the wind, the sound of birds in the tree. The far off bark of a dog and the twang of a banjo. The newer book – it’s the chittering of finches, the musical laughter of a little girl, and wind chimes whispering.

  2. Love this post! It made me think of my childhood home. We lived across the street from a train track. It got to point where I could not close my eyes until I heard the 10:00PM train approaching. I’d count the whistles as I nodded off.

  3. How about snapdragons?

    I suppose I’m used to the honking horns and other street noise that pours through my balcony window during the day. Right now I’m listening to some music (Vorisek’s Impromptu in E) while I stumble around in the dark trying to figure out how to write a section of my story that has eluded me forever. Once I start writing, though, I like quiet. I almost never listen to music while I’m writing. I think the rhythms in it compete with the rhythms I hear in my head.

  4. Magnificent post. Great reminder for engaging as many of the five senses as possible in a scene to help create mood, underscore motive, etc.
    Example: When you mentioned the sound of trains, I was immediately transported back to my college years when I was in a long-term, long-distance relationship.

  5. I love the sound of that water – the kind of noise you could just lose yourself in. I’d never really thought of the natural soundtrack of my WIP. The latest one has sounds of summer, the constant thrum of cicadas, the gentle rustle of leaves in a summer breeze, the dull scuff of soft leather boots on stone floors…

  6. Thursday’s Children are certainly doing it for themselves! LOL

    Having grown up in NYC and lived solely in capital cities filled with millions of people, I would have to say that my most common soundtrack are sirens and car alarms. That must be why I blast my music so loud!

  7. First, kudos to our fellow Thursday’s Children and to you. Second, I want to come visit you. I think it would be wonderful to walk the beach and imagine stories all the while hearing the surf. Too cool.

    Also, I’d love to listen to TENDRIL. How awesome would that be? Please keep me posted.

  8. We live halfway between a fairly busy rail line and the shore. It depends on the wind and the waves as to whether we can hear the lake at our house. But the distant sounds of the train have become a part of the sound of our lives. I like music for writing because it blocks out all ‘modern’ sounds, and my story is set in the ancient world. I suppose distant mournful warhorns or thundering hooves would be a part of my soundtrack. I have a few songs in my writing playlists that have birdsong and forest sounds in the background, and I like that very much (if it’s not overdone).

    Fingers crossed you will find a lovely soundtrack at your new house. But can always keep the sea in your heart, right? Another great post, Rhiann!

  9. Mine is always music…always, always music. BUT *if* I could hear the ocean, it would trump music pretty quickly. I’ve tried those “ocean sounds soundtracks” and meh…not so much the same. If it’s windy or raining I’ll crack the windows for the added white noise…but those moments are few are far between. Lovely post.

    • I have a feeling I’ll be disappointed by ocean soundtracks too. But I do intend to fill my office space with ocean colors and tangible reminders of the beach. We’ll see how that goes…

  10. Great post! (as always 🙂 ) I had not realised how much I rely on sounds to describe scenes up until I decided to write from the POV of a deaf MC… I constantly need to find ways around it now… quite an interesting challenge! Not sure I’ll ever do it again, though 😉

    • Gosh, I can’t even imagine writing from the point of view of a deaf character. Sound is so much part of my writing, inside my head–rhythm, cadence, vibration–(I don’t visualize as I write, I “listen”); I would find it almost impossible to write the absence of this “listening”, or rather the presence of something else. Good luck!

  11. Love the sound of waves! So peaceful! My background soundtrack while I’m writing is music. Music has been such an integral part of me for so long I have to listen to something while I’m writing. It gets my brain moving. The soundtrack various depending on the story.

  12. I suppose for me I’d have to be boring and say as little noise as possible! I sometimes try listening to music when I’m writing but it distracts me too much really. Which is a shame because I would love to listen to music more often – at the moment it tends to be on a bus and not much else!

  13. It’s funny that you blogged about this, I was just thinking about the importance of background noise the other day! The drone of the computer, the air conditioner, etc…and how it must affect the way we view the various parts of our day.

    When I’m writing, I sometimes like to listen to music that puts me into the character’s frame of mind. For example, a few weeks ago, I finished up a pretty action packed sci-fi story, so I had Hans Zimmer’s Dark Knight Soundtrack on repeat and I love this composer because he often integrates everyday action noises into his music such as footsteps, the sound of a car starting, etc…- it helped me get into the character’s frantic frame of mind.

    Another great post- thanks for sharing this and making us think!

    • That is cool – adding everyday noises to music. I did a TC post a few weeks ago about how listening to particular kinds of music helped me get into the POV of one of my 17 year old male characters. Definitely a handy tool in the writer’s toolbox. RIght next to chocolate 🙂

  14. Congratulations to everyone with good news!

    I’m trying to remember what language or culture it’s in and I can’t –but somewhere the morning dove is supposed to be saying “remember your god”. I think it may be in an Arabic language.

    Thank you for this great post. It’s easy to forget that sounds trigger strong emotional reactions. It’s interesting, in my WIP train sounds are important but they don’t and shouldn’t remind my MC of anything. But the clank of silverware and the crunch of dried leaves do. I probably should use that even more when I revise. Right now I use sounds to transition into back story.

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  16. Congrats to everybody!! I love good news. And of course, the sound of waves. I’m quite jealous. I’m surrounded by cawing crows (which is sometimes good), barking dogs, the clothes dryer (which is ancient and VERY loud), and the people across the street who like to play their thumping music from their car at ALL hours. Pandora is a necessity for me 🙂

  17. Hmm. Very interesting!

    I don’t think I use enough ambient sound as a source of inspiration. I guess it’s because I usually turn to whatever I have in my iTunes collection, rather than seeking stuff out. But YouTube can fix that!

    I’m definitely up for trying this!

  18. YAY Thursday’s Children! Awesome news all around!

    The one constant of my background soundtrack (besides music) is the sound of cats purring. I usually have company while I write. 🙂 The rest depends on the time of year. In the autumn and spring, it’s wind chimes from the front porch, rustling leaves and the neighbor’s very vocal pit bull. In the summer, it’s either the gentle lapping waves of Indian Lake or the crashing waves of Lake Superior. Ahhhh…heaven.

    I would so love to write at your house! 😀

    • I’d love to have a big old house on the Maine seacoast where I could host all my writer friends for a retreat – wouldn’t that be fun? Not sure how much work would actually happen, but…

      • What part of Maine do you envision? I’ve only been there once; last year, for a friend’s wedding reception. She lives near Rockport.

        • Well, I live in lovely Kennebunkport now, but will be moving to NC in June. There are so many beautiful coastal places – Camden, Harpswell, Boothbay, Bar Harbor. Rockport too. The list is fairly endless and I haven’t seen all there is to see despite my years here.

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