Things that go thump in the night

February 4, 2010 at 5:39 am (Tension, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , )


Things that go thump in the night are fairly predictable. You lie in bed hearing a clattering on the roof, a bang, a tinkle, a crash, a thump and swishing noise and you count them off in your head.

Tree.

Cat /possum.

Another Tree.

Fallen branch.

Gutter pulling away from the roof.

Slight gap in the window so the wind is making that weird noise again.

Tree.

Nothing overly earth shattering. Not really. I actually find comfort in these sounds and others because I’m so used to them. When they stop I wonder why and the silence is actually more alarming than the myriad of sounds I usually hear.

Sometimes things that go thump in the night are perfectly mundane and sometimes we just tell ourselves they are and both can work really well in a story. If your character jumps at every single sound then people are going to be wondering if they had a sheltered upbringing but if they roll their eyes and ignore the sounds, and ignore even the important sounds it could make for some interesting possibilities.

Incidentally, the two thumps I couldn’t ignore: a car crashing into a wall down the road and a tree falling through a fence. Those two things were definitely not part of the usual nightly sounds and both got an immediate reaction.

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14 Comments

  1. David Burton said,

    I like that idea. I might steal it for my What If? Blog.
    I’m new to all this and I like what you’re doing.

  2. Crystal said,

    Excellent! Sheds some light on an aspect of writing (and reading) that, not being a writer I’ve never really given much thought to–but would definitely stand out when reading a story.

    Very sound examples (oh! PUN! LOL!) of character reaction.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I always wonder in horror movies when the charaters hear a sound a go “What was that?” whether these people have ever listened to the world around them before. Most sound just aren’t that menacing.

  3. AlexJ said,

    You have some noisy trees!

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Used to before the move. More trees = less grass which means no lawn to maintain.

  4. Carol Kilgore said,

    Have you ever dreamed a sound that woke you up? It’s sort of freaky. Sometimes there’s a real sound that the dream turned into something else. But sometimes it’s all quiet. Or maybe it’s just me.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I have done that before. The worst is dreaming of the alarm and jumping awake and then realising it is still the middle of the night.

  5. tsuchigari said,

    We moved into a new house and soon after hubby had to go on a business trip. That night I heard I noise I couldn’t pinpoint. It sounded like someone hitting a wooden spoon on the kitchen floor and only happened once every few minutes . It freaked me out enough to go check it out. Turns out the &%&*# dishwasher’s water line runs hot enough to expand and contract under the floor!

  6. barbaraannwright said,

    We live near some train tracks. Ugh.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      Hopefully the trains aren’t going thump in the night.

  7. Yvonne Perry said,

    You have such a great way with words. I like what you said about the silence being more alarming than the sounds of things that go bump in the night.

  8. Donna B. Russell said,

    We’ve had several thumps in the night lately, but they’re not menacing at all. They’re the result of our new cat exploring her surroundings and discovering that there isn’t always room for her when she jumps up on things–like the top of the piano where family photographs are displayed…or were…and will be again as soon as I go pick them up!

    Sounds in the night definitely can add interest and suspense to a story. Interesting post.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      I learnt the hard way – the cat will win. If she doesn’t want those pictures on that shelf, they aren’t going to be there for long.

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