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Hearing the words

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Lately there has been an emphasis on the field part of my job as a field engineer.

I have been driving quite a lot. I've been listening to audio books. Some I've read, some I haven't.

Dune, Frank Herbert

Ender's Game- Card

Foundation- Asimov

Cryptonomicon- Stevenson

Ubik- Dick

Red Storm Rising- Clancy

Out of the Dark- Weber

There's something I really like about audio books. Hearing the spoken word does something for a novel.

It's something as a writer that I've taken note of.

Now as I've writing something, when I finish a section I read it aloud to hear how it sounds.

I think that makes a GREAT difference.

There are profound differences in how we write and how we speak.

Is this something others do? Just wondering.

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Absolutely, a good habit for the writer to listen to the words in spoken form. Speech has a cadence that needs to be duplicated in dialogue between characters in written format. So often a paragraph spoken aloud reveals the difference between a good flow of words and a flurry of thought hastily typed out that needs to be changed.

Even if the sound of that voice is only in your head it will often serve to expose the flaws of poor word choices. Anything that helps in the editing is a welcome tool for the writer and appreciated by the reader.

But I am not at the listening to books read to me stage of life since the speed with which I read is probably faster than the books on tape variety. Sometimes the details in a scene slow me down and I like to think of them visually before moving on.

At other times I see the material in a paragraph as fluff, much as if the author is being paid by the word to plump up a story with needless detail. There were times in my life that I thought a book so totally useless I wanted to throw it against the wall and kick it under the bed. That would be awkward if I was listening to a CD and disastrous to both wall and CD player. :smile:

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Reading your lines aloud is essential to writing poetry, and it sure doesn't hurt to do it to gauge the flow and the rhythm of prose. At the heart of our art is successful communication, and if you can't say it without stumbling someone else probably can't read it without confusion.

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I will admit to not reading any of my words aloud, but, and it's a big but, I do listen in my head to all the dialog I write, and find myself adjusting it so it would sound natural to be spoken by whichever character is speaking it. I do try to make it sound different when a teen is saying it or an adult. The way dialog sounds is important to me, and to the story.


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Now as I've writing something, when I finish a section I read it aloud to hear how it sounds. I think that makes a GREAT difference. There are profound differences in how we write and how we speak.

Yes, there is a sometimes a profound difference in how we write, vs. what we say. I always try to err on the side of making things more conversational in dialogue, particularly in the use of contractions, ellipses, interruptions, incomplete sentences, and all the other things people do. But I also try to differentiate between characters by giving them each a specific style of speech: some speaking at a very common level, some very refined and upper-crust, some with a lot of slang or dialects, and so on. Reading it out loud can frankly be embarrassing, but if you can even do it with the door locked and nobody around, at least you can find out if there's a better way to say what you've written.

BTW, this is frequently a problem on movie sets when actors are confronted with clunky or convoluted dialogue. Famously, Harrison Ford once told George Lucas (on the set of Return of the Jedi) about the movie's dialogue : "George, you can write this shit, but you can't say it."

As to audio books: I have the controversial opinion that I prefer the Jim Dale over-the-top reads of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels, vs. the British Stephen Fry editions (which I believe the author herself prefers). Their approaches are very different:

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A grand comparison, and rewarding on both sides. While I am not willing to get into a pushing match with Pec over what is essentially a subjective opinion, I do think it's hard to out-voice the magnificent Stephen Fry.

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I do think it's hard to out-voice the magnificent Stephen Fry.

Yes we are fortunate to have had many great queens, Stephen is one of the most appealing... the most refined of them opened Parliament yesterday, that hair... wonderful... was there scaffolding to support the crown I wonder.

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Stephen Fry is a superb actor, but I think Jim Dale differentiates between the characters better, taking it as sort of a radio play. No question, both are extraordinarily good, as are the stories.

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I'm firmly in the Fry camp.

I just read the entire Harry Potter series for the third time, in a different format. First time, I read them all in hardback, printed editions, within days of the books being published. Second time, I did it all with audio books (Jim Dale). This time, I did it all on the iPad... and I enjoyed it thoroughly. The stories hold up very well over time, and I had a greater appreciation for some subtle story touches (and plot payoffs) that sometimes took years to happen.

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