On coining sounds

You often find common words used as onomontoPOWia in comics, which is both understandable and lazy at the same time. Usually it doesn’t work, as we saw when a young Jim Starlin tried to use “BRONX” as the sound of Iron Man hitting a galactic vampire. Joe Staton swings and misses in the pages of “Millennium” as well with the same technique:

millennium-2-brasj.jpg
millennium-2-plow.jpg

Both are one letter off from common sound effects, and the effect is jarring. POW and BASH I can mentally translate into something I might hear. But adding a letter to turn each from a sound effect to an actual word decreases their ability to convey meaning. You can’t help but bring up the words’ definitions in your mind when you read them, and instantly you’re not in the realm of the auditory but rather the physical in one case and emotional in the other. You want to keep your reader in the moment, not break them out of it thinking, “That’s not what a plow is …”

Keep it simple, folks; sometimes more is less.

About Jeff Hebert

Jeff is a 44 year old city boy who has somehow found himself located in Colorado, fulfilling his lifetime dream of making a living drawing super-heroes all day.

2 Responses to On coining sounds

  1. I dunno…I’ll give you ‘brash’ as nonsense, but ‘plow’ in that situation -almost- fits: He’s knocking the gun away as a plow knocks aside soil.

  2. Yes, but the sound a plow — or a man hitting another man — makes isn’t “Plow”. And when you read it, you don’t think “That’s a sound effect” you think “Who let the farmer in?” The fact that it’s a word that isn’t already an accepted sound effect but that’s close to one that is is what makes it so jarring. And lame.