Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sounds Through the Wall

I hear construction equipment outside. I've heard a lot of construction equipment in my 38 years of being an engineer, much of it around heavy construction, and this sounds like a dozer—a smallish dozer, not very well maintained based on the squeak of the tracks. Probably a D5 or smaller. For sure it's a tracked vehicle.

It's right outside my office by the sound of it. I have a corner office, but windows are only to the east, not the south, and I'd have to stand on a chair to see through them. We are supposed to be having some telephone work done, a new cable to allow a bigger pipe to transfer files faster. But that's supposed to be entering the building to the west, and they wouldn't need a dozer for that, just a backhoe or even a trencher. Any chance they changed their minds on where the phone line will come in, and I'm hearing a trencher? No.

Which makes me think of sound in writing. Read any book on the writing craft and they'll say to incorporate all five senses into your writing. We tend to focus on the visual and audio first, with maybe some tactile included. Sense of hearing is linked with audio, but stands on its own less frequently. The sense of smell and taste are oft forgotten by the writer.

I recently typed some edits in Doctor Luke's Assistant, things my wife found when she read it for proof-reading as well as to read the final version. She had read it several years ago, but I have long since changed things around and emphasize certain things. She said it was like a new book to her, as she faithfully marked both typos, grammar flubs, and suggestions for improved wording. I transferred them to a clean copy (since the copy she read was actually my least copy for editing and had a number of marks on it from my work) and counted: 27 typo/grammar needs and 35 suggestions for word changes. This was in a 155,000 word book. That's more typos than I would have liked, but not all that bad.

One reader had commented on finding a few typos, while another reader said it was really clean. The type of typos were missing letters (When the arrived at Nain, they....) (It was her fist time to talk with him) or changes in wording with the old wording not fully removed (he saw the Gellus call his associate....). The suggested improvements were somewhat about the voice I wanted to convey. Since this is a book based in antiquity I wanted the language to be kind of antiquated. She suggested changes to some of this.

Back to the senses. I effectively used the sense of smell when Augustus and Luke visited the camel market northwest of Emmaus. I used sense of hearing as a stand-alone event when Augustus is in a strange house, trying to sleep in the midst of a winter storm, but a branch outside is blowing in the wind and scratching against the building on the opposite side of the wall where Augustus is leaning. In that paragraph I had a very embarrassing typo. Given that that's a very sensory paragraph, I'm glad she caught it and marked it for me. I don't know how many times I read that paragraph and missed it.

Sight. Sound. Smell. Touch. Taste. I need to drill that into me as I begin work on new works.

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