Writing Tip: Listen and then Listen Again

by Matilda Butler on December 12, 2011

Writing Prompt LogoPost #116 – Women’s Memoirs, Writing Prompt – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

The Ocean Can Teach Memoir Writers a Lesson or Two

The shattered water made a misty din.
Great waves looked over others coming in…

Once by the Pacific, Robert Frost

As Kendra and I are wrapping up our planning and work session for 2011, we find ourselves excited about the coming year. We hope you are challenging yourself with specific goals and aspirations. We urge you to commit your Writing Resolutions for 2012 to paper (well, e-paper will do) and be sure to share them with us as an entry for our December 2011 final memoir contest of the year. Click on the link for contest details.

Listen to the Sounds

When Kendra and I got some time off for good behavior, we had fun on the Oregon coast. After we had walked on the sand for a while and were returning, Kendra said, “Your ocean sounds different.”

“What do you mean? Don’t they all sound the same?”

“I keep listening and there is a constant roar. It reminds me of Niagara Falls. No variation.”

“And…?”

“When I listen to the Atlantic interacting with land, there is a rising and falling sound. I could close my ears and know whether a wave is coming in or going out, two quite distinct sounds.”

“You’re right. This is an unrelenting din, not really that classic ocean sound.”

Memoir Writing Tip and Prompt

Using sensory detail in your writing is an effective way of bringing the reader into your world. If you are at the ocean consider the smell of the salt air, feel the cold water on your feet, the sight of the sun being swallowed by the ocean (if you are on my coast, or the sun rising out of the ocean if you live on Kendra’s East coast), the gritty taste of sand that the blowing wind deposited in your picnic sandwich, and, of course, the sound of the waves.

In the one-minute video below, you’ll see Kendra chasing the ocean and then being chased by a shallow and persistent wave. You’ll see the many moods of the waves — in the late afternoon with the setting sun, in the early evening with the pink-dusted sky, and early in the morning just before the moon disappears for the day.

Listen. Listen to the ocean sound that interrupts the music. The first is a constant sound. The ocean barely takes a breath. In the second, you have the more regular breathing in and breathing out, the rhythm of water and land interacting.

Writing Prompt

1. Listen. Listen to the sounds around you. Move you head to the left and to the right. Close your eyes. What is distinctive? Is one sound the loudest? Maybe it is the softest sound that catches your attention. Maybe the sound of silence rings in your ears.

Write a scene using one or more of the sounds you are hearing right now. Sounds can be in the background, setting the mood or the context. Sounds can be up front and important, advancing the story by bringing change into your scene.

How will you add sounds to what you write today?

As always, we invite you to leave us a comment. Do you already use sound effectively in your memoir writing? Share your thoughts below.

memoir, memoir writing prompt, memoir tips, how to write a memoir











{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda Thomas December 12, 2011 at

You said, “If you are at the ocean consider the smell of the salt air,” and that reminded me of one of my favorite surprises. I’d been on a business trip for a couple of weeks near the Sahara Desert where temps were over 110 degrees in the shade–not an easy climate for a Seattle girl. My next stop was Dakar, Senegal, on the westernmost point of the African continent. When the plane’s door opened and we started to clonk down the steps toward the tarmac, cool moist saltsea air wrapped around me and my heart soared. Not only did it smell like home, but the cool moisture felt heavenly compared to that sub-Saharan climate.

In recent days I’ve published a couple of blog posts about your writing prompt, the importance of listening. Here are a couple of links:

http://spiritualmemoirs101.blogspot.com/2011/12/do-you-hear-them.html

http://spiritualmemoirs101.blogspot.com/2011/12/decembers-details-for-your-memoir.html

Thanks for all you share with us on your blog. :)

Linda

Matilda Butler December 12, 2011 at

Hi Linda:

Our writing prompt triggered such an interesting memory. Thank you for sharing that. I’m in the midst of writing a chapter but will check your links soon. Did you add a link to our prompt? If not, we’d be delighted to have you do that.

Hope you have a wonderful holiday.

-Matilda

Linda Thomas December 15, 2011 at

Hi, Matilda, I wrote my posts before you published your post so I wasn’t able to add a link.

Linda

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