Radio Hed: Writing to Sound Effects

Radio-Hed-Logo-2By Jeffrey Hedquist

What sound would you use for the breaking of writers’ block?

When your creative juices have dried up, go your sound effects library, close your eyes, and just pick a sound effect at random! Then give yourself two minutes to write a commercial for your client using that sound effect.

No matter what the sound effect is, commit to going through the process and see what happens. Try a few different SFX, and eventually something will click. You’ll get a cohesive commercial out of it.

Another approach is to carefully choose a sound effect that’s not normally associated with the advertiser. For instance, if your client sells office products, don’t pick typewriters, computers or office background; pick something like a fire engine, an explosion, a baby crying, or a food processor. Again, using that two-minute deadline, force yourself to write a story using that sound effect alone.

What happens? Your mind s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s to connect the two disparate parts of the equation. It will naturally want to unify these aspects, and you’ll start stringing webs of words and ideas together to bridge that gap. Out of that will come a commercial!

A common format for commercials is the problem/solution type. Sound effect analogies can be used very effectively.

Problems: A ticking clock: pressures of time. Thunder and rain: depression, trouble or problems. Wind: to demonstrate change, as in the winds of change. Traffic jam: chaos, confusion or anger.

Solutions: Quiet gentle sounds like mountain streams, birds, children laughing and  especially... silence.

 If you use intense sound effects to denote a problem, silence can be a very powerful contrast. It’s a good way to highlight the solution—as a release of tension.

Contrasting two sound effects of differing value can be effective. For instance, contrasting a tiger with a domestic cat...an elephant with a mouse...thundering footsteps with the patter of children’s feet. I’m sure you’ll be able to think of lots more, but those are some examples.

© 2002 Hedquist Productions, Inc.

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