Elizabeth: Read to Me

reading_togetherA few days ago, while randomly surfing the internet, I came across this article entitled I read out loud to my partner for a week and here’s what happened at Bustle.com by Sadie L. Trombetta and it caught my interest.

I tend to think about reading aloud as something you do with your kids.  It brings to mind circle time at school and stories before being tucked into bed at night.  But being read to isn’t just something for kids.

The audio book market has taken off in recent years.  What started out as a talking-books program for the blind in the 1930s has now transformed into an estimated $1.2 billion industry according to the Audio Publishers Association.  While commuters are estimated to account for half of all audio book sales, that still leaves a lot of audio book listeners who aren’t just filling time on their way to and from work.

The rise of audio book popularity has lead growth in the field of storytelling professionals.  Many popular narrators have amassed a following of their own, distinct from the stories they voice, with listeners following them from book to book.  The narrator’s job can be quite challenging, especially for books with large casts and/or complicated character dialects or individual voices.

“A great novel told in the first person makes for the best script an actor could imagine,” Colin Firth said in a press release.

So, what does this all have to do with writing?

Well, the first thing is that audible books provide another avenue for creative storytelling. Like screen plays or episodic television, the techniques used to write for audio differ from those for writing traditional prose and could present an interesting challenge from a writing perspective.

 “A handful of such publishers have started dabbling in original audio content, hoping to demonstrate that recorded narratives can hold their own as original works of art.” – Wall Street Journal

The main reason the article from Bustle.com that I mentioned at the beginning of this post caught my interest, however, was for its character development potential.  I’m constantly keeping an eye out for new ways for my characters to interact and get closer together as they move through the story.

As I looked through my bookshelves, I found an example of reading aloud in Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels.  When Jessica and Dain first arrive at his ancestral home after they marry, their happily ever after is not running quite as smoothly as one would hope.  After a chilly dinner, Jessica reads aloud from Byron’s Don Juan.

“Then Jessica began to read aloud.  At Stanza III, Dain left the fireplace.  By the eight stanza, he was sitting beside her.  By the fourteenth, he had arranged himself into an indolent sprawl, with a sofa pillow under his head and a padded footstool under his feet.  In the process, his crippled left hand had in some mysterious manner managed to land on her right knee.  Jessica pretended not to notice, but read on—“

The act of reading aloud in this scene has an impact on the characters, moves the story along, and provides a fun way for the characters to interact and get closer in an intimate but non-sexual way.  In An Unwilling Bride, Jo Beverley also uses reading aloud as a way for her characters to interact.

Close together and without other distractions, reading aloud together is an intimate act.  It can be a relaxing experience, as well as a nice way to share an enjoyable activity.  I think this would be a great way for my characters Michael and Abigail to do a little bonding.  Now the question is “who is reading and what book?”

So, do you like to be read to (or to read to others)?    Got any recommendations for good “read aloud” books?

13 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Read to Me

  1. Oh my goodness, I love Audible.com! I especially love listening to Georgette Heyer, because while she can be a bit difficult to the average reader in print, when her books are read aloud, they’re positively magical! In fact, right before commenting, I was listening to “Friday’s Child” while surfing the net for images of Nate and Susannah. I’m pretty sure I’ve read it before, but listening to it takes it to a whole new level. Particularly when you have an actor reading who does such excellent voices. Each character becomes unique and I hardly have to listen for the dialogue tags to know who’s talking. I simply love it and highly recommend it for anyone who has a long commute (or even a short one), or as an alternative to music while working out, walking, or running.

    • Justine – that glowing recommendation *almost* makes me want to try listening to a book again. I have to confess I have never been a fan. When I tried before, I found the narration actually distracted me from the story, rather than enhanced it, as it seems to do for you. I also found it too easy for my mind to wander off. I guess it’s a case of “different strokes for different folks.”

      • At first, my mind would wander, but I guess I’m used to it now. Many of the stories I’ve recommended over the last year here on 8LW I listened to, not read. I found them just as engaging.

        It’s all different strokes for different folks. 🙂 I’m keeping narrators in business.

  2. I’m the complete opposite of Justine – I’ve never listened to an audio book, and I don’t expect to try in the near future. My brain prefers to connect directly with words on a page. I seem to absorb the story better that way, rather than having it told to me via somebody else’s interpretation. Thanks to the wonders of kindle I can read on a crowded bus, or train, or tube. I could imagine listening to a great story would be good for anyone who has to drive long distances, and maybe good fun for exercising, but I like to use those as thinking time for my own story so I prefer to listen to a playlist and let my subconscious get to work.

    I do think it’s important that stories work when spoken aloud, though. A few people have told me that it’s worth listening to the final draft of any WIP through your computer’s voice software, and I plan to do that this time around. I’ve also been through a couple of name changes for my hero to find a choice that sounds right when spoken aloud, not something that just looks good on paper or screen.

    • Jilly – oh thank goodness I’m not the only one 🙂 I too feel like I connect better to a story via words on the page, rather than words in my ear. I definitely see the importance of having stories work when spoken aloud though. I’ve seen having software read your story aloud, or reading it aloud yourself, suggested in a variety of revision articles as a good way to make sure it flows well and doesn’t have wording that is likely to trip up your readers.

  3. My mom was a great reader-aloud, and I have fond memories of my fifth-grade teacher reading us The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But in general, I process words better by reading. I guess I can go back, I can slow down when I need to, and I can skim when things get boring — all of which are rather hard with a live narrator, and they used to be harder even with a recording. Nowadays, though, it’s pretty easy to go back in a podcast and hear something on repeat.

    That used to be a popular trope, though — the guy reading from a book of poetry to seduce the girl. In theory, reading about it, it sounds great. Probably have to be Colin Firth doing it, though, to make it fun in real life.

    Along those lines, though, I like watching a guy play an instrument. I also enjoy watching a guy craft something. And I’ve read scenes where the guy is also entranced by the woman laboring over her needlework, or lightly strumming her lute or something. A more modern version might be falling in love with someone while watching them play a video game . . . . Or sing karaoke? Karaoke singing really makes one display certain vulnerabilities that don’t normally get displayed.

    • Michaeline – I don’t actually remember being read to as a kid. I know teachers read aloud at school, but my parents were not big readers at that time, so the only reading I remember is what I read myself. Maybe that’s why I prefer reading to listening to books now.

      You’re right about it being nice to slow down / skim / go back when reading yourself. I can also be kind of tricky to search audio books if you are trying to find a quote or a specific part in the action, though maybe that’s only a problem for people who are trying to write about stories.

      • I guess when I’m listening, it’s to be entertained. If I’m taken with a book, I buy it, too. In fact, I have several Georgette Heyer’s both on my shelf and on Audible.com. What I love about listening is that it isn’t a droning, boring read. You get to focus on the cadence and flow of the words, which I think is quite important in writing, too. No, you can’t easily go back and highlight this or that, but I encourage you to listen for a completely different reason. To just HEAR the story. Think of it like watching a movie with your eyes closed.

        I think with me, too, is that I have so little time to read…so little time when I’m actually sitting down doing nothing else, that I’ve kinda been forced to accept this as a format if I wish to “read” anything. I listen when I’m doing dishes, folding laundry, definitely driving in the car, cleaning the house. I also listen when I have a migraine and am forced to lie down with an ice pack on my head. It’s too boring just to lay there and reading is out of the question. And apparently I can listen and surf the net for hunky pictures of male protagonists, too. LOL

        • I’m amazed to hear that you can listen and surf the net at the same time. I find that I lose track of the book even with relatively minor distractions like reading incoming texts. (Thank goodness for that 10-seconds-back button!) On the other hand, that’s only true for when I’m reading while listening. I never have trouble listening while navigating while on a hike or driving.

        • Scott, by “surfing the net” I was looking for pictures of models/actors/whatever that personify my characters, so I wasn’t reading anything. Either a person’s face interested me (in which case I hit pause on my audiobook), or I just kept my eyes moving.

          I definitely cannot read and listen at the same time. Oh that I could! I’d get through twice as many books!

      • Regarding the searching of aBooks for a quote, that’s a pretty funny comment from someone who’s been resistant to eBooks. 🙂

        For what it’s worth, it’s very rare for me to have a book in audio format and *not* also have it in eBook as well.

        • Scott – eBooks have their place, just not for me 🙂 The searching for exact phrases was great when I used them for a class, but not so good for the “I remember this part that happened about 2/3 through the book”.

          Regarding the audio / eBook combo, isn’t Amazon offering a deal when buying that combination, at least on some titles?

  4. I’m a huge fan of audiobooks, but even I have to agree that there are drawbacks. Authors often use typographic tricks to indicate internal dialogue, for instance, which presents quite a challenge for either the reader or the producer of the aBook. Likewise, those extensive quotes at the start of chapters can be rather confusing, without the visual cues.

    But particularly for re-reads, aBooks are a wonderful way to add reading time to your life. (And if you aren’t short on hours in which to read, please tell me your secret!)

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