Sound effects (before or after the sound making event)?

J.D.Rajotte

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So I've been struggling with this for a while now to a decent degree. When a sound is made in my story I like to add a descriptive sound effect in bold text to better envelope the reader, (Ex: BANG, hisss, Whoosh). I'll Typically create an entirely new line for each sound effect. Now where this gets confusing is whether to add this sound effect before the sound making event or after.

Example A:

*THUD*

Tina's book fell to the floor as her jaw dropped in bewilderment.

Example B:

Tina's book fell to the floor as her jaw dropped in bewilderment.

*THUD*

Is there any particular order in general you guys think is best for this? Or is it strictly situational. Thanks in advance!
 

ckatt

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I think this first one works better, myself. The thud is closers to the event that created it. While it's doubtful, the thud could be the sound of the bewildered jaw dropping in example B.
 

HareBrain

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Yeah, the first. Having the reaction to the event *before* the event doesn't work (at least not for me).

On a similar topic, the best order to put things is: stimulus; physical/emotional reaction; mental/thought reaction.

So:

The door slammed. He jumped. "Wow, that was loud," he said.

Not:

"Wow, that was loud," he said, after jumping because of the slammed door.

It's surprising how often you encounter the second kind of construction (though that particular example is rather extreme). It almost always works better with the first one.
 

HareBrain

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After posting the above I naturally began to worry about exceptions. I think sometimes people can react to a stimulus before they're aware of the stimulus, such as jerking your hand away from a hot object before you really register its heat. In that case it might make sense to reverse the order of the first two.
 

tinkerdan

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In a slight change of tense.
*THUD*
Tina's book had fallen to the floor and her jaw dropped in bewilderment.
or
Tina's book fell to the floor and her jaw dropped in bewilderment.
'Thud'
In the former she may or may not have seen this and the thud sound surprised her she might not yet see that it was the book that made the noise.
In the latter she probably watched it slide down to the floor and her jaw dropped as a reaction before the thud.

On cause and effect.

Tina's book fell to the floor, 'thud', her jaw dropped in bewilderment.
This one is sort of cause effect cause effect.
It might be:
Book falls causes thud
Book falls might cause the jaw drop
or
The thud might cause the jaw drop.
or the combination might cause the jaw drop.

Going all the way back up:
The first
thud {something causes thud} causing the books to fall.
The second one
thud might have been caused by the jaw dropping or the books falling or both .

I know: that's just totally ridiculous.
 

Toby Frost

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I generally don't like sound effect noises at all (sorry, Tolkien!). But if I had to choose, I'd say noise first and explanation second, generally.
 

Wayne Mack

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I use the sound effect first. My reasoning is that the sound is intended to be jarring and by presenting it to the reader without preparation it reads jarringly as well.

In terms of format, I wouldn't use bold text or wrap the sound in asterisks. I find the extra formatting to be distracting. I am on the fence about using all upper case; I find that mixed case is sufficient, especially as the sound is isolated on its own line. Most often simpler is better.
 

Montero

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I'd avoid something falling followed by her jaw dropping...... sagged?

And having the "as" implies that the book falling to the floor is linked to the jaw dropping

It isn't quite a Thog's Masterclass, but avoiding Thogland is always good....
 

Astro Pen

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Sound then explanation.

Unless there is no element of surprise:
He lit the blue touch paper.
Schweeek
The rocket streaked into the sky

(ps On reflection, even then.)
 
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sknox

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There's almost never a good reason for onomatopoeia in narrative. Not quite never, but nearly. For this reader, at least, it absolutely does not better involve me. Let the book fall. Let my own imagination supply the sound. I recognize this is preference, so it's strictly fwiw.

The first sample given doesn't work, but for a different reason. It has a jaw dropping along with the book. Her surprise--bewilderment, which is an odd sort of reaction to a simple fall--comes not from the sound but from the act of falling itself. The sound effect there is strictly anti-climactic.

It makes me wonder, what is the purpose here? Is Tina surprised by gravity? Did the book fall by itself? Did it take a complicated course, which would account for bewilderment? Did she put the book on some surface she thought was stable only to see it collapse? You will note that each scenario carries various possibilities in terms of narrative.
 

Swank

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The book teetered off the edge of the desk.

THUD!

It struck the floor, discomfiting the cat.
 

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