A New Challenge Confronting Authors: Writing Novels to be Read Aloud.
July 10, 2013
In a publishing world filled with conundrums, writers are now confronted with another one.
It may necessitate change.
It may not.
And some writers may not even care.
But the hottest new trend in publishing these days is placing a stronger emphasis on the rise in popularity of audiobooks.
They have been around for a long time.
But suddenly, audiobooks seem to provide authors with a brilliant new way to cut seriously down on the competition.
There are millions of books on Amazon.
There are only a few thousand audiobooks.
Smaller competition of being noticed, seen, heard, and read.
I think I’ll take my chances with the spoken word as well as the written word. After all, ACX and Audible are working closely with Amazon to provide development and distribution for audiobooks.
They see the trend growing.
They see the storm coming.
They are paving the way.
However, here is the problem we all have to consider.
For centuries, authors have written words to be read and ingested silently. The words have always been lyrical and poetic and thrown on a printed page to prick the conscience, the soul, and the imagination of mankind.
Now authors are facing the challenge of writing stories that must be read aloud.
It’s not as easy as it sounds. You may even have to change your style and voice if you decide to become a part of the new audiobook phenomenon.
Sentences should be short and direct and to the point.
They should have impact.
They should be read without the narrator having to take several breaths in order to survive the ordeal.
I checked to see how well the beautiful words of William Faulkner might be read. I began reading a paragraph in Light in August:
She was quite calm now. She had escaped for the moment from even urgency. It was thought now she had time to look about and plan. Looking about the scene, her mind, her thought, went full and straight and instantaneous to the janitor sitting in the door of the furnace room.
So far, so good,
Then Faulkner remembered he was Faulkner, and he wrote:
She just seemed to look outside herself for one moment like a passenger in a car and saw without any surprise at all that small, dirty man sitting in a split chair in a sootgrimed doorway, reading though steelrimmed spectacles from a book upon his knees – a figure, almost a fixture, of which she been aware of for five years now without once having actually looked at him.
But, for a narrator, the reading had suddenly become an endurance race.
A professional narrator could do it. I’m sure a professional narrator has done it.
But, personally, I believe that the strength of the audiobook is hearing the author read his or her own words in a novel.
It may not be quite as good.
It may even be a little rough around the edges from time to time.
But it possesses the raw passion that the author invested in every word.
Flannery O’Connor would have had no problem at all narrating her own books.
She wrote in The Lame Shall Enter First:
All at once his eyes became alert. Without warning the rain had stopped. The silence was heavy as if the downpour had been hushed by violence. He remained motionless, only his eyes turning. Into the silence came the distinct click of a key turning in the front door lock. The sound was a very deliberate one. It drew attention to itself and held it as if it were controlled more by the mind than by the hand. The child leapt up and got into the closet.
O’Connor reads well silently and aloud.
Narrators would kill to read Flannery O’Connor.
So would I.
With an eye on audiobooks, I think I’ll try to write like Flannery O’Connor.