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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tips for Sharpening Your Writing Skills

(Thursdays, from May 24 to October 4)

13. Onomatopoeia (ON-a-MAT-a-PEE-a): The use of words whose pronunciations suggest their meaning (e. g., meow, buzz, hiss, zip).

To produce strong images, particularly in poetry
To create mood
To add aural sensory

Examples of onomatopoeia:

Animal noises such as oink, moo, roar, chirp, purr.

Birds named after their calls, such as the Bobwhite quail, killdeer, chickadee, cuckoo, whooping crane, and whip-poor-will.

Automobile sounds such as honk or beep-beep for the horn, and vroom or brum for the engine.

Other common English-language examples include hiccup, zoom, bang, slurp, and splash.

Nursery rhymes such as “Baa Baa Black Sheep.”

Knock-knock jokes:
“Knock, knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Boo who?”
“Don’t cry, I was only joking.”

"Klunk! Klick! Every trip."
(U.K. promotion for seat belts)

Advertising jingles such as in Alka-Seltzer’s "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz. Oh, what a relief it is!" and Rice Krispies’ “Snap, crackle, pop."

Marvel Comics trademarked two words of their own invention: thwip! the sound of Spider Man’s web shooter, and snikt! the switchblade-sound of Wolverine’s claws locking into place.

"He saw nothing and heard nothing but he could feel his heart pounding and then he heard the clack on stone and the leaping, dropping clicks of a small rock falling."
(Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls)

"[Aredelia] found Starling in the warm laundry room, dozing against the slow rump-rump of a washing machine."
(Thomas Harris, Silence of the Lambs)

In Sir Alfred Tennyson’s poem “Come Down, O Maid,” the m and n sounds produce an atmosphere of murmuring insects:
“… the moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.”

In book 4 of Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels, the name of the Houyhnhnms is an onomatopoeia for the whinny of a horse.

"Like every other device of the writing art, onomatopoeia can be overdone, but it is effective in creating mood or pace. If we skip through the alphabet we find plenty of words to slow the pace: balk, crawl, dawdle, meander, trudge and so on.

"The writer who wants to write 'fast' has many choices. Her hero can bolt, dash, hurry or hustle."
(James Kilpatrick, "Listening to What We Write." The Columbus Dispatch, Aug. 1, 2007)

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