Yes, I spelled onomatopoeia wrong the first time. And the second time. And . . . well, let’s just all be thankful Google and dictionaries exist.
Today in our series we’re talking about sensory words, including but not limited to the aforementioned ridiculously hard-to-spell one.
Sensory words go very well with tomorrow’s topic (so be sure to come back for that). They take the reader from casual observer to participant – now they aren’t just reading about a campfire. They’re smelling the smoke, seeing the blue and orange flames, feeling the heat, and hearing the crackle.
Onomatopoeia are words that look like how they sound (I’m not sure the other senses have their own big word to identify them). If you’ve ever written about a crackling fire, a sizzling egg, or a booming firework, you’ve used this device. The original Batman series made especially good use of them.
Maybe they get their own word because sound words are usually the last ones we think to include (at least they are for me). Having a character take in how something looks is easy and automatic. How things feel, smell, sound, and taste are usually only mentioned if they stand out (or if it’s dark). However, they’re necessary for anchoring characters and readers in the scene.
Rather than pick apart each sense and listing words (I’m pretty sure that’s something we can handle on our own), I thought it would be fun to share bits of our writing that have lots of sensory details. Leave yours in the comments, along with where it came from (can be a WIP or published work).
Mine is from my current WIP, The Seventh Seed. This is a chunk of first draft narrative, so don’t judge me too harshly. 😉
The guard tossed three sets of handcuffs through the small opening in the cell door. They clanked on the cement. “Put those on each other. Behind your backs.” He coughed.
Liz pulled her collar over her mouth, but the smoke still burned her eyes. They had to get out of here.
Charlie instructed Mattson to turn around, and he secured the bracelets on his nephew’s wrists. He then faced Liz. “Put these on me, and then I’ll get yours. I can do this without looking.”
Dropping her collar, Liz grabbed the cuffs and tightened them around the cop’s wrists.
“Okay.” He wiggled his fingers. “Now put the last pair in my hands, as open as you can get them. And turn your back to me.”
Liz took shallow breaths and kept her eyes open a slit as she followed his directions. She showed him where her hands were by touching his fingers, resisting the urge to jump when he touched her butt.
The cold metal circled her wrists, and the door clicked open. The guard grabbed Charlie’s arm, pulling him towards the back door. Liz and Mattson followed close behind.
The smoke grew thicker. Her throat tightened and burned, and the sensation reached her lungs. She was suffocating.
Eyes burning, Liz pushed her way past the guard and Charlie. She didn’t care if the guard shot her in response. She had to get out.
The yell didn’t stop her. She pushed against the door with her shoulder and hip, and fresh air hit her like a welcome brick.
A hand grabbed her arm, pulling her off the path. She fell to the ground.