Let’s Talk with James M Jackson

Hearing a Book
By James M Jackson

Earlier this month, I turned Empty Promises (Seamus McCree #5) in to my editor. One of the last steps I perform before I declare a work-in-process ready for my editor’s pen is an “auditory read through,” in which I have Microsoft Word read the manuscript back to me.

Most of my POV characters for this story are male, so I chose Microsoft’s David Mobile. Unlike a voice actor, or when I read my WIP aloud, this electronic reading does not provide inflection, which allows me to pay more attention to the actual words. It does take a bit of getting used to. Microsoft mangles many proper names because it tries to pronounce them phonetically and guesses at syllables. One character is Frank Cabibi. I’ve pronounced his last name in my head as Că-BEE-bee. Microsoft David chose CAY-bǝ-BY. David also doesn’t correctly enunciate the difference between the “live” in live bait versus the one in live and let live.

The occasional auditory jar startles me back to listening with careful ears. When I read my own work, I read through typos. (I know what the word is supposed to be.) Microsoft David reads what’s there, catching, for example, “habit” in a sentence where “habitat” was intended. (The error had survived two earlier drafts.) Listening to my writing, I hear close proximate uses of words, which I rewrite to avoid the repetition or substitute a good synonym. I also hear clunky sentences that had seemed fine on paper—more candidates for rewrites.

As well as Microsoft David works for my writing purposes, I wouldn’t prefer him to a professional narrator of any book I wanted to listen to. When I traveled in the car by myself, I listened to lots of audiobooks. Since I retired, most of my travel includes my better half, who is not an audiobook fan. I know some authors are recording their books because their fans like to hear stories in the author’s voice.

Readers: do you have preferences about narrators for audiobooks?