Today, I'll begin a short series called "Stolen from poets" that explores some of those techniques and how to use them in your own writing. I'll try to keep these brief and focused, tackling one technique at a time.
Sound devices, part 1: Assonance
The thinking behind sound devices is often onomatopoetic; the sound and meaning are linked.Today I'd like to focus specifically on assonance--repeated vowel sounds--and how they can carry emotions.
Consider these examples. Say them aloud. How do they make you feel?
1. John groped for his coat in hopes the Tylenol bottle hadn’t dropped through the hole in his pocket.
2. Lisa worried they'd think her rude if she cooed at their cute baby, so she chewed her lip while brooding on his tiny blue shoes.
3. Wading deeper into the creek, Ross felt the coldness seep through his sneakers. Shining eyes seemed to peek through the reeds. A cheeping frog sent a shriek of fear streaking up his spine, but he ground his teeth. Must stay silent. Must not be weak.
In my first example, Can you feel John's inner ache? The repeated oh, oh, aah, ahh,make the passage seem to moan and groan on the page. The repeated O sounds (both short and long) make you verbalize John's pain response.
In my second example, Lisa's entire inner monologue does coo at the cute baby, even if she refuses to do it aloud. The repeated long U sound carries it. This is an excellent, subtle way to add layers of meaning to your character's thoughts. Characters might consciously deny something while the sounds in their words convey a deeper, hidden, unconscious desire for the denied thing.
In my third example, the creepy feeling is reinforced by a series of little shrieks, like one might hear upon having a bug scurry over bare skin: Eeek! Ross is screaming inside, even if he's being tough and silent on the outside.
Chose an emotion you want to convey and think of the most primal sound you associate with it, such as Os for groaning with pain, Es for screaming with fright. Write a sentence, paragraph or scene in which you repeat the sounds.
Hint: a rhyming dictionary will help you identify words with the vowel sounds you need.
How might you use this technique today to improve your writing?