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Using background sounds to create realistic settings

A couple years ago, a friend told me that when her 90-year-old mother got hearing aids, she found out she would have an adjustment period as she began to notice things that over time she had stopped hearing.

Once she began to wear the hearing aids, she heard the hum of refrigerators, sounds of cars going by outside, and other background sounds we all take for granted. This reminded me of staying in houses where I’d lie in bed in the quiet of the night and hear the creaking of the house, the wheezing of the furnace, and the clanging of radiators.

I’ve thought about how I should show this sensory part of the world in my scenes and settings. It’s a way to add realism, and I imagine it makes it easier for readers to immerse themselves in the story world I’m trying to create.

I’m going to start listening more closely to hear the sounds that I’ve been taking for granted, so that I’m more conscious of how they organically might set a tone or feeling for readers of being “in the story.”

We’re surrounded by sounds in real life, so it’s a natural way to make a story feel real to the reader and in many cases add tension.

How do you use sound in your stories?

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