Dressing Up Description: Harness the Power of “Loud”

I had a hard time finding an image to go along with this post because obviously “loud” is something experienced through our ears. So how can you get your readers to “hear” loud using only the written word?

One answer is to focus on how loudness makes people feel in different situations. Any migraine sufferer can tell you that something doesn’t need to be loud to feel that way to a person. For instance, if your characters are having a contemplative moment of silence, any sort of disturbance is going to feel loud, even if it is a happy sound like laughter. If people are startled by a noise they may curse, stand, spill a drink, or make some other sudden and disruptive sound or movement.

On the other hand, if you’ve got people in the middle of a death metal concert, loudness would be an important part of the experience. The thud of the base in your chest and the feeling of being totally absorbed in the sound could feel liberating, or to the uninitiated it could add to a feeling of claustrophobia. Loud kids are usually happy kids, but a dog that is making a lot of noise is probably pretty agitated. If a person is both happy and loud, they could be described as ebullient, but a loud and angry crying jag is called keaning. It’s all about the feelings.

Alternatives

Sometimes, you just need a good synonym or simile and varying your word choices will help to keep the interest of both yourself and your readers.

Loud adjectives: thunderous, cacophonous, sonorous, vociferous, clamorous, blaring, deafening, piercing, ear-piercing/ear-shattering/earth-shattering, powerful, forceful, lusty, forte, insistent, vehement, emphatic, urgent, noisy

Loud nouns: clang, ping, thwack, whack, slap, whoosh, boom, beep, blast, explosion, wail, cacophony, clamor, clangor, clatter, clash, crash, crunch, hoot, peal, racket, roar, snap, thunk, honk, din

Combine anything from list one and list two, and you’ve got a pretty exciting way of saying “loud”! Thunderous boom, forceful clang, urgent wail, the list goes one!

And sometimes you want to show that a character is speaking at a high volume without ever using the word loud. I’ve got an even longer list of synonyms in this post, but here are a few I came up with to show someone is making a lot of sound while speaking with resorting to “she said loudly.”

Synonyms for speaking/emoting loudly: cry, crow, shout, call, scream, whoop, guffaw, howl, screech, wail, erupt, explode, shriek

A great way to loosen the old gray matter up if you are having trouble deciding how to express “loudness” while you are writing is to do a little brainstorming. Take a few minutes and see how many different loud things you can think of, or use the list below to get your mind moving.

  • Basically all trucks (tow truck, garbage truck, fire truck, etc) and farm equipment
  • Stereos, speakers, feedback from instruments or a microphone
  • Waves crashing, something hitting water from a great height
  • Barking/howling dogs, mewling cats, hungry guinea pigs
  • Air passing by your ears during free fall
  • Large engines like airplanes or trains
  • Children playing/children crying
  • Sirens, car horns, and school bells
  • Heavy things hitting each other
  • Structures or trees falling
  • Hand guns and other weapons
  • A death rattle
  • Power tools
  • Fire
  • And don’t forget, the silence of absence can also feel loud if you are used to the happy sounds of a full house

Looking for more ways to Dress up Description? Check out my post about the color red.

 

 

 

Dressing up Description: Harness the Power of ‘Red’

color-meanings-symbolism-chart-red

Personally, I absolutely LOVE to write long descriptions of places and events, but I know that for many this can be a slog. It’s difficult to translate what you see in your mind into words on the page, not to mention writers are expected to do so in an interesting way that engages and informs the audience to boot! And even if you feel like description comes naturally to you, it is easy to fall into the trap of cliches and redundancy if you don’t watch out.

Take the color red, for instance. There are tons of red things in this world, but by far the most common thing that is referenced in descriptions is blood. I am sure you have come upon this before while reading, and I read enough fiction that it has become a pet peeve of mine. On the one hand, it is totally understandable that we would feel moved by this particular simile because of the importance of blood to the functioning of our bodies and its automatic visceral response. On the other hand, been there, done that.

Alternatives

I gave myself a few minutes to brainstorm, and I came up with a list of things that are red that aren’t blood. These sorts of little bursts of brainstorming can be really helpful to keep you in a writerly mindset even if you don’t have a chance to sit down and write anything with a story.

Feel free to use any of these in your own writing, your readers will thank you!

  • raspberries, apples, tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, currants, grapes
  • merlot, cabernet, burgundy, port, sangria and any other variety of red wine
  • cardinals, a robin’s breast, a rooster’s comb
  • taillights, police lights, and Christmas lights
  • lipstick, rouge, and fingernail polish
  • roses, geraniums, tulips, poppies
  • stop signs and stop lights
  • clown’s noses and shoes
  • rubies, garnets, and agate
  • lady bugs and ants
  • fire trucks
  • sunburn
  • bricks
  • clay

If you feel like having a little adventure, take a trip to a big hardware store and look at the paint chips. The folks who name paint colors have a hard job, and they have a lot of creative solutions.

Unwilling to leave the couch? No problem! There are also some wonderful charts online to help you pick the exact shade of red and how to express it. I like this one, but there are a lot of others out there with more of the spectrum from pink to purple represented.

color-thesaurus-correct-names-red-shades

Examples

Here are a couple of idioms that have become cliches, and alternate ways to express the same idea using synonyms and similes.

‘Going red in the face’
She did not smile at his joke, but he could tell by the ruby burst on her cheeks that she had heard it.

‘Seeing red’
His anger boiled to the surface and flashed bright and unexpected like taillights on an empty highway.

‘Red-head’
 I couldn’t help but stare at the woman who entered the room. Her hair, a cascade of mahogany shot through with a garnet sheen, flowed over her narrow shoulders and nearly to the floor.

Just for Fun

In the comments or on your own, pick something that is red and describe it without ever using the word. See how many different ways you can find, even if it gets a little complicated or goofy. This is just about stretching yourself as a writer, so take chances!