A 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?