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Exercise: Sounds of Silence

These exercises were written by IWW members and administrators to provide structured practice opportunities for its members. You are welcome to use them for practice as well. Please mention that you found them at the Internet Writers Workshop (http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/).

Prepared by: Rheal Nadeau (Original title: Hush!)
Posted on: 19 Feb 2001
Reposted on: 7 Apr 2002
Reposted on: 13 Feb 2005
Reposted, revised on: 13 Aug 2006
Reposted on: 19 Aug 2007
Reposted on: 4 Oct 2009
Reposted on: 9 Jan 2011
Reposted on: 19 Aug 2012
Reposted on: 20 Apr 2014
Reposted on: 5 Jul 2015
Reposted on: 28 Aug 2016
Reposted on: 10 Sep 2017


Exercise: In 400 words or less, write a scene in which you depict total silence without using the words "silence," "quiet," or other synonyms.

This assignment deals with the absence of something, in this case sound. Describing the absence of something can be more difficult than describing something that is there.

A story might include a moment where the action ceases and all becomes quiet. Something shuts off, or stops moving and silence prevails. Perhaps the crying baby finally falls asleep, or the neighbor's dog stops barking. It is easy to describe noise, but how do you describe silence?

Choose a setting. Add some noise. Create an event that causes the noise to stop and show the reader what that "sounds" like. How does it feel? What emotions occur as a result of the silence? The silence might feel peaceful, comforting, relaxing, ominous, threatening, or foreboding.

A thought--total silence is rare. Will there be other sounds that begin to intrude on the silence?

Exercise: In 400 words or less, write a scene in which you depict total silence without using the words "silence," "quiet," or other synonyms.

Critique by assessing how well the essence of silence was portrayed. Could you "feel" the change from noise to quiet emotionally? Did it engender a certain mood? Was the story free from synonyms for silence?

Web site created by Rhéal Nadeau and the administrators of the Internet Writing Workshop.
Modified by Gayle Surrette.