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Q&A

Can we dialoguify sounds?

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Can we dialoguify sounds? By dialoguifying I mean turning something that shouldn't be put in quote when that something correspond to sounds into a dialogue by putting it between quotes and treating it as a dialogue.

For example:

"Bang, bang, bang, pow." Celine banged on the door. "Bang, bang, pow, pow." she continued. "Bang, bang, bang."

What are some alternative ways of doing it?

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/q/46289. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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4 answers

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  1. Quotation marks are for words that are actually spoken. Nothing else. If you must do this, use italics. But don't do this.

  2. Don't try to do sound effects. A novel is not a movie. You can describe sounds, when they are relevant, but don't try to reproduce them. If you want us to hear the sound, tell us what it sounded like. "Celine banged on the door, which boomed like a bass drum."

  3. Don't tell us things we already know. If you bang on a door, it makes a bang. We know this. Tell us what we don't know. "Celine banged on the door, but the only sound it made was like the footfalls of a mouse on newfallen snow."

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+5
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I wouldn't recommend this.

Anything that appears in quotation marks is meant to be taken literally. When I first read your example, my first thought was that Celine was talking - and actually saying the words "Bang, bang, bang, pow." This approach is likely to confuse the reader.

A common alternative is to use italics instead:

Bang! Bang! Bang! Pow! Celine banged on the door. Bang! Bang! Pow! Pow! she continued. Bang! Bang! Bang!

(Unless, of course, you want a door that actually talks when someone knocks.)

Feel free to adjust the punctuation to your liking - Bang-bang-bang! could work as well.

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+2
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Onomatopoeia consists in creating words whose sound is similar to the sound you want to reproduce. For instant, an explosion could be replaced by a single

Bang!

or the barking of a dog could be written as

Woof!

Note that quotes are not necessary. Putting these words in italic is sometimes a good practice, albeit unnecessary.

This is not uncommon in comics, and, among the rest, in older Batman series. It is also extensively featured in Futuristic poetry from the beginning of the XX century.

That being said, the frame challenge is that, as you show in your example, the English language has already a good amount of onomatopoietic words, verbs in particular.

Back to your example:

Celine banged repeatedly on the door. She raised her fists and punched, boomed, clanged, knocked, tapped, slammed, bumped, thud, thumped, smacked, stamped, stomped, and clomped until they finally opened.

Or, if there was a meaning in the different words, you could consider:

Celine banged on the door. She knew the code well: three loud bangs and a softer one, then two and two, and finally three loud bangs.


Please consider upvoting Cyn's comment, which first suggested looking into onomatopoeia.

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+2
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If you want special areas to denote onomatopoeia, I have a great new medium for you to discover: The comic book. Unfortunately, the narrative medium was not made for the purpose you're proposing.

I'm all for breaking conventions, especially if there's a damn good reason, but this is a bridge too far.

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This post was sourced from https://writers.stackexchange.com/a/46294. It is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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