Uh Oh Onomatopoeia! Why onomatopoeia is so important in writing.

by Monique Taylor
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So what is onomatopoeia? It’s a big fancy word for words that are sounds.

Are we being loud? Secretive? Confident? Humorous? Sounds can take you there!

Bang, crash, splash, whoops, boom, tick-tock, ding-dong, click, snap, poof, whomp, wham, pop, burp, honk, oops, boo, vroom and buzz to name just a handful. Onomatopoeia is the surround sound blast that can express every sound form the tiniest whisper to an all-out crash boom bang sound explosion!

In writing, it’s all about developing empathy in your reader, building tension with foreshadowing and dramatic irony by giving your reader more information than your characters. One of the ways to do that is to use your 5 senses. So… describe how it looks, feels, tastes, smells and of course, sounds! Sounds are closely linked to emotions. When cats are happy they purr. When time is the focus the tick-tick-tick could make time streeeeeetch or, speed it up like a ticking time bomb. For example, in my illustrated short story The Red Balloon, I used only onomatopoeia to drive the plot forward and convey the emotion in the character. Everything from awww to ahhhh!

Where would we be without onomatopoeia? Sound is the most visceral reaction that can be made and no matter how quiet someone tries to be, there is always a sound that will give them away and let your reader know what they are doing and why they are doing it ie. Pushing along your plot! Without onomatopoeia…would be to remove sound from our writing and to deprive the audience of the full sensory experience, the literary equivalent to a silent movie. Although, having said that, sudden silence in a noisy place can be just as effective as sound.

How else could we hear the drip of a tap which irritates, or the purr of a cat to soothe? They’d be no ah-ha moments, or sighs of ecstasy; no ticking clocks to build tension or hum of bees, cars or batteries. No whir of machinery to signal it was working. No pop of bubbles to surprise and delight. No hiss of steam, shriek of parrots or squelch of mud…

Add some action to your story!

Imagine the feeling you want to convey.

Then, bring it to life with sound!

Just imagine the scratch of a match in a pitch dark room.

Still not convinced?

Just think… what would Jacob Marley’s chains be like without the clank? How would we know there were reindeer on the roof without the clatter? Not so much as a ho, ho ,ho!

Connect to your reader! Use onomatopoeia!

Happy joy chasing x

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