Prompt for week 5: 2nd February – 7th February 2015
Writers tell their stories largely by using the sense of sight–we learn what characters and scenes look like. Sounds, smells, tastes often get short shrift.
But read this line by Joyce Carol Oates (from We Were the Mulvaneys):
“Marianne’s pretty face lit up in its customary dazzling smile. ‘Hi, Della Rae!’–the very voice, a lilting soprano, of Caucasian privilege.”
Doesn’t that description of a sound tell us something? Can you hear it? In your submission, use whatever words you need to let us hear the sounds that help show your characters or help us to see your setting. Of course, you’ll use other senses as well, but make sure that sound plays a significant part.
Birds sing in the back yard or the forest, dogs sometimes howl in the dark, exploding bombs create a din, cars honk on the street outside my building. We’re constantly surrounded by sound, and often it serves to help orient us, to show us where we are and what’s going on. Your characters are in the same boat–let them hear as well as see.
Write a scene of no more than 500 words in which you employ sound to help show us your characters or to help set your scene.
Tell us how the author’s use of the sense of sound does or doesn’t work to show us something about character, setting, or emotion that we otherwise might miss. How does sound color or deepen the story? Could the writer have used even more sound?
Here is my take on the prompt.
Order in Chaos
“Ma-a I flunked my exam,” I whispered hesitantly, sobbing.
“What?! Do you know how much it costs to send you to college in Canada? Where do you think the money is coming from?” Mom said, as I continued to sniffle into the receiver.
“Sweetie, what is the problem?” inquired my father.
“I can’t concentrate in this damn dead-silence.”
“Amul, play some music while you study.”
“I tried… Nothing is working Pa-a.” I stood my ground. After a few more suggestions they hung up leaving me to cry myself to sleep.
I lay in bed as my thoughts drifted….
Noise is and was a part of my life. Sunshine or not, the day started without fail at 4.00 AM with the temple aarti and the chanting blasting from the loudspeakers. That was my alarm. We lived two doors from the temple. Shortly, the aarti would be followed by barking of stray dogs, rendering their part in the chorus. I can’t silence my body-clock anymore. I’d stop lagging and get out of bed to get a head-start with my morning study session. I’d hear Mom in the kitchen with clinking of utensils and spoons. I’d drown the white-noise around as an expert and wrap a blanket around my head and sat squatting to study.
At 6.00 AM, the city would wake up to the chaos masked in order as a veil, trailing behind – milk vans zooming past delivering milk sachets, paper boys ringing cycle bells, tossing the rolled paper to perfectly land with a thud on front porches, burst of awakening of traffic, vehicles honking, Sweepers sweeping the roads with a swoosh and more importantly – the Imam at the mosque across the street squeaking Allaho-Akbar into the microphone. That was my cue for change in action. I’d conclude my study-hour, stuff my books into my large backpack and get on with my morning ablutions amidst Mom screaming, breaking my fight with my brother Sami, to go first in to shower. Then I’d have breakfast in a hurry as Mom would remind, “Chew your food,” as she ran behind me with a glass of milk to the elevator. I’d gulp it in sprint speed.
At 7.30 the auto-wallah-uncle hoots his horn, non-stop, deafening the entire building. He’d be ready to drive the kids hanging out of his over-packed three-wheeler, to school…
I slipped into sleep amidst incoherent thoughts.
A week later, I received a courier with a CD from Sami, titled: Noises-from-home.