Sound: Putting noise into words – writing exercises

Yesterday I gave a workshop for Touchstones Creative Writing Group but rather foolishly forgot to take my usual photograph of the board! This blog post reflects on the session and there are a few creative writing exercises provided that you may wish to try. 

Alliteration, Assonance, Onomatopoeia

I ran an alliterative icebreaker: “my name is Jennie, I like to jump and juggle with jam”, some people used rhyme, some people alliterated. It was all good 🙂

I then talked about different types of alliteration and how we could use it in our writing to create sound effects (poetry, for example, while using imagery to paint pictures in our mind also utilises sound).  We then played with onomatopoeic words applying sound to some art postcards I handed around.  (Nb postcards are brilliant ways of inspiring creative writing stories, vignettes, poems etc. and they’re cheap too.)


I chose 20 sound effects and played around 4- 30 seconds of each asking participants to just note down what the sounds reminded them of, any words or phrases or perhaps images that they evoked and to note these down.  I said that I wasn’t going to tell them what the sounds were until after they’d written them down.  I then gave them all ten minutes to write a piece that concentrated on one of the sounds. (One writer who is accomplished and writes terrific poetry wrote a TS Eliot inspired piece using ALL of them.  I love working with this group!)  The Spotify playlist for the sounds is below:

I wanted the participants to use their imagination in what the sound evoked, any memories, any thoughts.  However, about four sounds in, one of the new participants had a hearing aid which I didn’t  realise until they said that they couldn’t hear the recordings. This has given me much to think about in terms of the accessibility of the session; perhaps what I should have done was to introduce each recording with what the sound was supposed to be.  I am annoyed with myself for failing to plan this in.  This incident, however, has been useful to reflect upon my own practice and contingency planning in order to make every session so that that everyone “gets a go” at writing.

70 Beautiful Words

The last exercise focussed on a nice bit of marketing undertake for the British Council’s 70th birthday in 2004.  The organisation polled 7,000 from across 46 different countries in order to discover the most “beautiful words in the English language”.  I printed out the words and chopped them up individually asking participants to choose two or three (or more!) and try to link them somehow.  Remembering to add sound to their writing.  We had a lovely piece about a tutu-wearing hippo!


Once again, my aim when I develop writing workshops and activities is that it doesn’t matter if participants go off prompt; they’ve created new writing and that is what I am there for.  I prepared a writing exercises handout for the participants which you can download to use yourself or with friends/a writing group: sound-putting-noise-into-words-handout-for-writers and the supplementary list of 70 beautiful words.

In Rochdale?  The next creative writing session will be on Thursday 5th January, 2 – 4pm at Touchstones Arts & Heritage Centre and will be facilitated by Annette Martens.


3 thoughts on “Sound: Putting noise into words – writing exercises

  1. I know what you mean about postcards-I’m the same about old photographs. In my book one of my poems has a woman reading a Capote novel, and she is using one of my favourite old photographs as a bookmark.


      1. Both. I did a post (a couple of posts ago) about the photograph of my Gt.Grandparents and the pub that they run. The one in my book was one I discovered and loved-it’s featured a few times before. Soon I’m going to do a couple of posts about the inspiration of poems-the photo will feature. Keep an eye out 🙂


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