The Sound of Paper

Photo credit: A Second Story (
What is the sound of paper? Julia Cameron wrote a book by this title, The Sound of Paper. I began reading it some time back and found it so inspiring that I returned the library copy, determined to order my own. Today I remembered the title and hit the 'net, looking for more information.

That search activated a synapse deep inside Google, the cerebral cortex of cyberspace, linking to an essay,
The Sound of Paper, posted on the Moleskinerie blog site by Pinkadelic. The essay lists a dozen sounds of paper, such as
It's a note uncrinkling on its own after being passed under bubblegum-painted desks. Do you like me? Circle Yes or No. Yes.
Pinkadelic puts the sounds into contexts, as we do when we insert sound into stories, and her results are polished to a sheen.

Her post intrigued me in a couple of ways. I admire her craft and her imagination in finding these examples. And it reminds me that awareness of the raw data of sound lies deep beneath these descriptive gems. Basic awareness is the fuel for the sparkle in your stories.

I let my awareness wander to all the paper-connected sounds I can think of:



There are surely more, but this list will do.

Few of these sounds mean much unless they are put into a context, like “The resulting clack emphasized his point as Maynard sharply tapped the edge of the document against the table.” Or,
The sound of shuffling papers alerted me that Terry had finished the edits.

Including references to sound, indeed any of our senses, enriches your stories, adding a note of realism and credibility hard to achieve any other way. Becoming intensely present in your surroundings, then cataloging your sensory input will fill the bins of your brain with enough fuel to sparkle up all the stories you can imagine.

Write now: sit quietly for three minutes, listening intently to your surroundings, then make a list of all the sounds you notice. Pick three of these sounds and weave them into short descriptions.


Pat's Place said...

That is something I need to do! Learn to be more descriptive about the simple things around me. Wonder how one would describe the click-clack of typing on this computer keyboard. There is also a bit of thumping going on when I bang on the spacebar. And sometimes I hit certain keys, like the exclamation point or the question mark, with determined emphasis!!

Ritergal said...

Ah, Pat, you are leading to the next level, and probably a future post. Similes and metaphors are a great way to describe significant sounds that are otherwise difficult.

I'm listening to the sound of my own keys, a sort of soft clatter, hmmm. Yes, some sounds are challenging.

Anyone else want to toss in a keyboard sound suggestion?

Pat's Place said...

Interesting note. After I read your post I went to a local art show and one booth that had all items made of metal that looked like crumpled or folded paper. One piece had four pieces of crumpled paper going from a little crumpled to VERY crumpled--the the "paper" was metal. He also had pieces that had folded paper airplanes or paper hats or paper boats (all made of metal). I stood there and just laughed at the crumpled paper pieces. Funny art!

ybonesy said...

Very good reminder. And a thesaurus always helps. Sounds, smells, colors---some of the hardest to describe without falling back on cliche.