Sunday, January 1, 2012

Writing for audio

Someone I know just signed a contract for one of her books to "go audio"--- be turned into an audiobook. That got me wondering if we should think about audio when writing or revising.  Does anyone else listen to auidobooks?

I read terribly aloud-- I mean, embarrassingly so. So I try never to do a
reading and will resist it to the end.

However, I'm an subscriber, and I think I've learned a few
things from listening to a few hundred audiobooks.

First, if you ever hope to "go audio," don't tag every line of dialogue.
Every other line will do and will sound better.

Also, if you sell to audio, provide a pronunciation guide for any
non-normal word. The reader won't be offended.

Other tips? Shorter sentences?



Erastes said...

I love audio books--I don't think I'd enjoy a romance or an erotic book, but I do love lying in bed listening to Pratchett or something like that being read to me. I wouldn't change my style for audio, definitely not. I read my own stuff aloud as I write it, and it seems to work ok. I've only had one book put into audio that I can think of, and that's "Hard and Fast" (English Regency) and it was read by an American and sounds AWFUL.

James Pray said...

Reading everything aloud is an intrinsic part of my end-game editing process. It helps me catch rhythmic issues and fine-tune dialog, along with a lot of smaller things like "that" overusage and balancing pronoun/proper noun counts. Also, it helps me get my work pretty darn clean (My agent literally told me not to clean it up any further, because if editors didn't have enough to do, they wouldn't get sufficiently engaged/committed to the project. I figured they'd probably be happy about that, but he knows more than I do...)

Alicia said...

Erastes, I'm like that too-- some books just don't feel right in audio. But I do like mysteries and thrillers in audio. Not romance or non-fiction. Who knows why?

Kiolia, that's a good list of what reading aloud can catch! You're absolutely right about hearing all sorts of mistakes or miswordings then, and subtle stuff too.

MadWriter said...

Kiolia -- It's so true about overusing "that". I've been doing a final edit and reading it all out loud, it's scary how many times I find a useless "that"!

veela-valoom said...

When I listen to audiobooks I tend to pick out things that are overused, particularly similarities. You might glaze over that when reading but when you hear it repeatedly it's different.

Anonymous said...

Audio books are performance. A good reader, perhaps even the author herself, can take just about any text and find a groove.

I'm lucky enough to get to write for radio and video. Short format, I might change sentence length and unspoken transitions to help the audio flow. Take it past 8-10 minutes, which puts you into podcast or download format, which means someone wants to hear what's being said, and it's all about the VO. Get a good reader, ideally a pro. Perhaps a seminary student or a stage actor who can keep it going for an hour. Beauty awaits.

Edittorrent said...

Anon, that's so true about the magic from a great reader. I'll never forget the time I listened to Atwood's "Oryx & Crake" on a long road trip. Started the recording in the midwest, was captivated by the beautiful storytelling, and when the book ended, I was on the east coast. And quite surprised to find myself there. The reader's voice was amazing. She made it amazing.


Taylor W.S. said...

A great blog, intelligent tips here.

But, can you be more explicit about your comment: 'don't tag every line of dialogue.'

I understand about inflexion as I read in English to my (German) partner ... savouring ... as I would describe it, every single word, so describing a person's attitude, how does that work as opposed to radio plays, screenplays and stageplay scripts?

As I live in Germany I had to find someone in the USA to 'partner' me.
Ellen Dudley.

Alicia Rasley said...

Sorry, Ellen, I lost your comment.

My thought is-- with an audio book, if we hear, "She said" and "Mike said" with every line of dialogue, it will get kind of irritating.

You're right to mention radio plays and such-- where the speaker never says, "This is Alice talking"-- just the line of dialogue. Of course, pretty soon we're acquainted with each actor's voice. And with a good audiobook narrator, there'll be some variance in voice for each character, which will help.

But it also helps for the writer to figure out some "marker" of this character's speech and use that in the lines where there's no "tag" like John said.

Quickly the listener will figure out that John is the one who speaks in short gruff sentence fragments, and Lee is the one who always repeats words, and...

I always liked the "visual" aspect of writing and reading, but now that I'm an audio addict, I'm seeing, well, hearing, ways we need to substitute for that aspect.