Thursday, 19 June 2014

My Opinion of Audio Books

I finally got around to listening to part of the audio book of my latest novel. And lasted about a chapter before I turned it off. My instant negative reaction surprised me, because I've listened to quite a lot of audio books in the past and enjoyed them. I found them especially enjoyable when I was off on maternity leave; I could conveniently listen to a book while nursing or while my hands were otherwise occupied. So I assumed I'd like hearing my own book.

But I didn't. It immediately grated against my ears, which surprised me. The person reading the story did a great job. She pronounced things correctly. She had a pleasant voice and a dramatic flair. I couldn't understand why I disliked it...but now I've finally figured it out. I don't know about other writers, but when I write, I hear a voice in my head telling the story. Basically I'm just there to take dictation. And that voice sounds like me. People don't generally like to hear recordings of their own voices, because it sounds different from what you hear when you speak. But to hear someone else entirely read the story in a voice different from the one I'm used to hearing in my head...emphasizing things slightly differently, in a different timbre and pitch...that really struck me as weird. And unpleasant. It didn't match the way I had first heard the story, when it was being created.

Isn't that strange? I never knew it about myself, but I must have a deep-seated belief that the story---in order to be true to the original---needs to be told in my voice. Not my recorded voice, but the voice I hear in my head. Which can't be captured. So it's doomed either way.

I wonder if this same feeling underlies the knee-jerk reaction I feel when my editor twiddles with my wording or switches parts of the story around. They might be perfectly valid alterations and probably make the story better, but they aren't true to what the voice told me. I totally relate to Cyrano de Bergerac's assertion that no one should change so much as a comma of his writing.

Or maybe writers are just a bit schizophrenic. We must do what the voices tell us!

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