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Writing the soundtrack

Writing about sound in text (part 3)

We've analysed a poem for sounds, and we've managed to ascribe a term and a symbolic meaning to each sound (check out the blog here on what sounds mean in writing).

Consider now that the sound of the words reflect the attitude to that object or thing. We can discern someone’s feelings towards an object or a person by the sounds that they choose to emphasise when discussing them. For example, the guttural ‘g’ sounds in ’that was disgusting!’ reinforce the disdain and derision of the speaker.

Remember, as long as we have identified the atmosphere, and argued correctly for the sounds that support the atmosphere, we cannot really be wrong with our analysis of text. Again, the trick is to be confident and to ensure that every device that you identify is analysed so that it fits the atmosphere or the mood that you are arguing the text has. A top tip to make this seem even more high level is to make sure that you have a good thesaurus brain! If you have identified a text as ominous, then perhaps the sibilance that you find in the ’s’ sounds of the poem reflects the sinister atmosphere of the poem; the guttural sounds that you find later on now reflect the dark, tense sense of place created; perhaps the jarring ‘k’ sounds next to the soft ’s’ sound reflects a cacophony apparent throughout the poem.

Remember - You. Aren’t. Wrong. You can only argue in a way that is not believed – and those are very different things.

This leads us on to the last point, and perhaps the most challenging aspect of all. Sometimes you will find that a writer will create one atmosphere, and perhaps use devices that don’t necessarily match that atmosphere. For example, in ‘Bayonet Charge’ we find a lot of plosives used throughout the poem, and this makes sense because we are arguing that that poem is about conflict and aggression. And yet, there is a point in the centre of the poem where we find a peaceful sibilance used ('statuary mid-stride'). In cases where you find a clashing between atmosphere and device, or a jarring between tone and device, remember that you can argue that this is next on the part of the writer. You can also always say that it reflects a jarring uncertainty on the part of the writer or an awkward conflict between intention and action.

For more on how to write in a way that helps resolve issues where you’re not absolutely certain if you’re correct or not, check out our next blog on writing using “hazing”.

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