Q&A: Do Not Neglect the Use of SOUNDS
A really fun aspect of screenwriting is the use of SOUNDS to add depth, description, or set the tone of scene. On the surface, the use of sounds might feel comic book-y with a “KA-POW” or “BLAM” littered throughout your description. You’re right. This is screenwriting, so the use of sounds always needs to have a specific purpose, which we have listed for your convenience …
First, sounds are great transitions from one scene to the next. For example, if a scene is concluding and someone asks, “Where is Ruth, anyway?” you can overlap with a vicious, “THUMP. THUMP. THUMP.” which hurls us into the next scene where Ruth is sitting in a half-naked circle around a glowing fire, high as a kite …
Yeah, that never happened. You wish.
But you see my point? If a sound is leading us into the next scene, we’re already subconsciously trying to figure out what is going on before we even see anything.
A second purpose for SOUNDS is to add elements for the character to react to within the scene itself. This is why words like “KA-POW” will not work in screenwriting. If a character cannot hear it, we probably shouldn’t write it. But if the backdoor suddenly SQUEAKS open and our protagonist turns around, but no one is there … well, we start to wonder if someone is in the house, right?
A third purpose for the use of sounds is the personification of something we otherwise never see, or haven’t yet seen, on the screen.
For example, if the invisible man is your antagonist, but there is literally no way to indicate when he is in the room, a certain sound can be associated with him to announce his arrival. Sometimes, its scarier hearing something than seeing it. So, the agitated GRINDING TEETH or an anxious TAP TAP TAP could become so much more in our imaginations.
One final note here, all emphasized sounds should be in ALL CAPS. In case you were wondering why I was screaming at you …