O – Onomatopoeia

My A to Z Challenge theme is teaching you how not to write a book, or a short story, or any piece of creative writing whatsoever. For more information, including links to previous chapters and lessons, please refer to this post. Now buckle in and proceed with…

THE WORST ROMANCE NOVEL EVER WRITTEN IN 26 DAYS.


PANDORA’S TACKLEBOX

Billionaire Highlander cowboy Hawk MacHardcastle is tired of living the jetset life of champagne, bucking broncos, kilts, fast cars, and burning bundles of cash for warmth. Desperate to find meaning in his life, he retires to his family’s isolated cabin in the wilds of New Jersey, on the shores of majestic Lake Latrine.

There, Hawk plans on self-reflection and pursuing the great love of his life—fishing. However, Hawk’s self-imposed loneliness comes to an end when he makes a most unusual companion and fishing buddy.

Dropsy Velvet was once a young woman living on the shores of Lake Latrine with her settler family. However, a curse turned her into a mermaid and now she lives, sad and alone, in the depths of the lake. She hasn’t had human contact for close to fifty years, thanks to everyone either being terrified of her or thinking they’re drunk when they see her—but Hawk may be the connection to the world she’s been craving. Charmed by her innocent face, sparkling wit, and huge bare breasts, Hawk decides to help her find a way to lift the curse, as she will lift his: the curse of ennui and affluenza. But time is running out, for something sinister wants to flush Latrine away forever.


Onomatopoeia

With a whoosh, Hawk jumped up from the sand, his muscles straining and beard unfurling with a pop. He growled and looked up and down the dark stretch of sand. The old woman had vanished completely, with a poof. He splashed into the water, his feet squelching in the lake bed.

Dropsy was still sleeping soundly, but he scooped her up with a slosh. She opened her eyes and gasped. Her breasts boinged in front of her, her eyelashes fluttering.

“Hawk?” She clung to his muscular chest. “What’s happening? What are you doing?”

“I must keep you safe,” he snarled. “There are evil things afoot.” And with that he swished out of the water and tromped toward his cabin with her.


WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED HERE?

Onomatopoeia are words that describe the sound something makes—words like ding, bang, plop, zap, and sizzle. These are useful in prose to convey sensory details, but they should be used sparingly. Why? Because you’re writing a novel, not a comic book (unless you are writing a comic book, then by all means). Overuse can seem weird and have a comical effect instead of what you’re going for. It’s more effective to not even mention sounds—there are lots of things, when described, we instantly hear in our head without being told. If I said someone jumped in the water, you’d hear and see the splash in your mind without being told.

Onomatopoeia is often italicized in prose, which draws even more attention to it, making overuse distracting. A lot of editors don’t want tons of italicization in your manuscript because it breaks up the rhythm and makes readers ‘hear’ the words differently. For example, do you ‘hear’ a difference when I write like this and WHEN I WRITE LIKE THIS? Best to keep distracting words, sounds, and changes in rhythm to a minimum. Keep the prose flowing smoothly. How’s that for a zinger?

20 comments

  1. I read a book once, the worst book I have ever read, that had pages of tum, tum, tum, tum etc. etc. etc! Literally, this was on page after page to show the beat of a drum. Oh gosh, I still get weak thinking of that! 🙂 At the time I hosted a radio show and interviewed authors, this was the first person I had to tell, no. There was simply no way I could even pretend to respect this writing.

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  2. I agree with Jean Davis. His beard unfurling with a pop…that was great! I literally laughed out loud at that line.
    If only Hawk was aware of how utterly absurd he is. But perhaps it’s just as well. He might never get over the shock. 🙂

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  3. You know, I think that using onomatopoeia in a novel which is not comical is the hardest thing to do. It always sounds kind of childish to me. There may be occasions when it is appropiate… but hoestly I have a hard time thinking about it.

    I’m more keen of verbs that have a sound, like your “He splashed into the water”. I think when an onomatopoeia is actually a verb, it’s a lot less distracting, because it does describe an action and at the same time it suggests the sound. I wouldn’t recommand to overuse these either, but I think we can be a bit more liberal with them 🙂

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    1. You’re absolutely right! I would much rather be told things in a literary way than using cop-outs. I realize sometimes it must be used, but yes, definitely. You hit the nail on the head!

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