[ah-nuh-maw-tuh-pee-uh. Say that fast, ten times. I dare ya.]
Even if you don't know the term, you've probably seen it in action. (Yes, I had to use Spell Check to spell it, though I did have only one letter incorrect.) Onomatopoeia is a word that evokes a SOUND, and is spelled like it sounds. These words are incredibly fun to use.
Whoosh, crash, tinkle, boom, swish, thump, clink, cuckoo, sizzle, woof.
1. Found in nursery rhymes and picture books. "Baa-baa Black Sheep," anyone?
2. Used for great effect in poems. Like the line in Sir Alfred Tennyson's poem "Come Down, O Maid": …the murmuring of innumerable bees.
3. Evokes certain moods for the reader, whether comical, tense, or easygoing.
4. Adds "audible" interest to otherwise ordinary passages in novels.
1. Your own brain: make it up. Be creative!
2. Visit the site Examples of Onomatopoeia for sound ideas if you're stuck. You can click on a letter of the alphabet and get lists of common onomatopoeic words.
3. Another good resource is Angela Ackerman's The Bookshelf Muse blogsite. She has lists of sounds under her Setting Thesaurus, for a wide variety of settings. Check out those and other great lists on her right sidebar.
Making Up Your Own
In the title of this post, I invented an onomatopoeic word: bloosh. It's spelled like it sounds. I am delighted when authors go beyond stock sound words and make up their own. It makes me smile to find them, such as in the novel I read this last week, ENTWINED by Heather Dixon. I ran across the following inventive sound words or combinations:
1. oosh eesh oosh eesh: sound of the MC's boots after falling into a river, while walking
2. thumpfwhap: someone throwing someone else against a wall in anger
3. stomp-click-stomps: sounds of the twelve princesses dancing in boots
4. psss psss psss: whispered conversation of the princesses at the dinner table
5. FFFFputputputput! --the multiple shooting of tiny cupid arrows
CAUTION: Tone and Mood
Onomatopoeic words don't always have to be silly-sounding words; Sir Alfred Tennyson's poem is a case in point. But they DO often add a playful, comical tone to a passage of writing. So beware--you wouldn't want to use a word like "bloosh" in a serious or dramatic scene unless you are trying to diffuse some tension or lighten the mood. Always consider the overall intent of a scene.
What's your favorite onomatopoeic/sound word?
Do you consciously use onomatopoeia in your writings?
Have you ever made up onomatopoeic words in your writing?
Have you visited The Bookshelf Muse and made use of Angela's helpful lists?
Have you read Heather Dixon's ENTWINED yet?
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