Hearing Sights, Seeing Sounds.


Ok, that is probably one of the more strange titles that you will see on the internet’s writing pages. Please note that I did not say, “on the Internet.” That honor is strictly for other subjects, all of which we will not necessary speak of here.

However, it allows for an interesting dichotomy of observation. We as writers can tend to be a little bit introverted. There are exceptions, as with all things. Take a look at the next ten interviews on screen, and see who’s in the interview. Chances are you’ll see the people make a living in front of the camera. Writers get interviewed in print a lot more than on screen, I’d be willing to bet, because they are more comfortable expressing themselves that way.

And no thoughts or comments about hallucinations if you’re looking up at that title and wondering what I took this morning.

In a way, though, the writing process is a way to help the things that lead to the title. I’ve referred to a “mind movie” in posts past, and in many respects that could be considered indistinguishable from a hallucination. I won’t get into the psychological aspects of that – much less the psychosomatic aspects if you happen to write horror and scare the hell out of yourself.

Sensory input is important in our daily lives. For instance, right now, I’m listening to traffic, shivering a little at the cool October air (64 degrees in Florida,) and trying to type as my most affectionate kitty licks my thumbs.

The senses are what allows us to interact with our physical world, which is why sensory deprivation often has such an effect. Without the interaction, we are cut adrift and helpless.

With the stories in our heads, struggling to get on paper, we have to interpret the various things that make up the story into something that could conceivably be sensed.

Let’s take Odell for a moment. Remember him? Last time we saw him, he was at Jack’s apartment after that horrible day on the garbage truck. Right now, I can see Odell standing at the counter of the liquor store, making his purchase. His wife’s perfume is still on his collar,and I can smell the faint scent of jasmine. I can hear the rasp of a couple of twenties and a five being counted off to give to the cashier for change and some quarters. I can also hear the sounds of the register beeping as the keys are pressed and the till popping out, then being shut a little too hard.

There’s the ring of the bell at the drive-thru window, the hum of the air conditioning unit, and the smell of where the apple moonshine was spilled earlier. Putting myself in Odell’s place for a moment, I can feel the slick smoothness of the case of beer, and the chill of the other case that came out of the cooler.

Moving a little bit ahead, at Jack’s apartment building, there’s the smell of somebody out grilling. Good steaks, too. The sound of Jack’s radio, and down the hall, there’s a couple of kids fighting over something and a parent telling them to knock it off.

That’s a normal thing, and something that we could probably experience any given day, depending on your proclivities.

What if you want to write sci-fi, for instance? I don’t think any of us have directly experienced the beauty of Cherenhov radiation during faster-than-light travel (here, it’s the blue glow in the water of nuclear reactors) or the terror of a warp-core breach following a plasma coolant leak. Still if you want to taste the color orange, you have to stretch your mind a little to be able to visualize that mental movie, and then stretch it a little more to translate from movie to paper.All that stretching will give you insight on various things, when you start exercising the storytelling power inside you. Just remember to stretch again when you cool down.

I’ve read a few things in the past that left me wondering if the writers took something before they sat down to the typewriter, and relied on muscle memory to hit the right keys, and even today it’s still hard not to think the same thing. I personally don’t, just for the record.

So, stretch your mind. Listen for some beautiful blue skies, and look carefully for the sound of water trickling over the stones.

Happy writing!

-JB Steele

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