You can see with sound, and that helps you write

Written by
Photo courtesy of 826LA
Photo courtesy of 826LA(The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

[Eric Drachman, the freelance radio producer behind KCRW’s SoundsLA project, held a workshop in January at the nonprofit tutoring organization 826LA in Echo Park for aspiring writers ages  9-14. He shares the gist of the lesson below.]

IMG_6688 (2)
Photo by Eric Drachman (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

The idea of including sound in your writing sounds bizarre at first blush. But once you think about how senses trigger memories and create images, it seems crazy not to take advantage of it in any way you can. The basis for my workshop was that besides the action and narrative of your story, a writer’s job is to build the world of the story for their readers. Any tool that can help stimulate the images in our imaginations should be used…including sound.

I started with this idea:

SOUNDS are full of imagined pictures.

PICTURES are full of imagined sounds.

You can capture both with WORDS .

We listened to sounds and discussed the images they created for us. We looked at pictures and discussed the sounds we imagine in those spaces. We practiced writing using the sounds from these examples.

Then we got out of our chairs and went to find sounds in the surrounding space. The students found objects that made sound, found creative ways to make sound, and listened for what was going on all around them. I recorded a handful of the sounds that they’d discovered and we regrouped and listened together. Using those sounds, everyone set out to write a story, some with illustrations.

Everyone was launched into a creative space where they were connecting the dots and building a world for their story. One student mentioned the barely audible sound of the city in the distance. It’s that kind of observation that gives readers a real and visceral sense of place. It puts us there, engages us and stimulates our imaginations.

While I hope the students in my workshop are not torturing their families with all the sound they can possibly make, I do hope that they are listening to the world around them and taking note of the tools of communication at their disposal.


KCRW’s “SoundsLA” project is a series of one-minute pieces in which listeners get to know a fellow Angelino through a sound that has special meaning to them.