Horns honked. Birds chirped. People laughed.
Letting your reader hear what’s going on pulls her into the story more completely than simply showing what things look like. Some writers start to panic when they think about tapping into all of the senses, but it’s not necessarily difficult to include sounds in your writing. The trick is using appropriate sounds to help establish the setting.
I recently read a novel that beautifully described the sound of a hardcover book opened for the first time – the binding cracking, the pages flipping. The writer perfectly described the sounds. The problem … the characters didn’t do anything with the book. The writer put it in there for the sole purpose of engaging the senses, but it didn’t add anything to the story. In fact, it distracted from the plot – I kept wondering what was so special about that book! Make sure the sounds add to the story.
Another thing you want to do is use distinct sounds. Look back up at the earlier examples. There’s nothing wrong with those descriptions, but there’s nothing special about them either. You could drop them into any novel. Get specific. Consider your setting – what unique sounds would you hear? Don’t describe the people at the beach, describe the waves or the seagulls. You can hear kids talking anywhere – at a school lockers slam and bells ring. Tractors chug on a farm. The subway rumbles in the city. Dogs bark at a park. Find the uniqueness of your setting and show it. If your setting doesn’t include a special noise, don’t worry. You’ve got four other senses to help paint the picture.
Go back to your manuscript and look for places that offer unique, specific sounds. Toss in a few and pull in your reader.