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?

Comments

  1. I love the narrator for my audiobooks. I prefer a female when the lead character is a woman, or a man if the protagonist is male. Otherwise, they need good acting ability to bring a story to life.

    • James M Jackson says:

      It’s great that you have a narrator that you like, Nancy. I have a minor preference for a narrator of the same sex as the protagonist, but where there are multiple POVs of both sexes, you just have to make due.

  2. I’m like Karla — my mind wanders too much these days. I also use David of Microsoft Word for my final pass through the manuscript, and I agree with everything you said. Even if I try reading aloud, I’m seeing what I expect and so I miss things. I also like the way the screen lights up each word as it’s read. It keeps my eye on the screen, and I’ve caught a bunch of stupid punctuation errors.

  3. My audiobook listening history is related to car trips, which means books that both my husband and I will listen to. Also we have a rule that says the driver gets to pick what’s on the radio/CD player, and he does most of the driving (so he picks most of the books). We’ve listened to author-narrated books and ones done by professional narrators. My strong feeling is that the narrator should deliver the story without overdoing it on the different voices. That always takes me out of the story and makes it about the narrator for me.

    • I’m with you Maggie about there not being a need for the narrator to differentiate voices. Some pitch their voices quite well, and I do know which character is speaking without any attribution. Others pull me out of the story — the one thing I DON’T want a narrator to do.

  4. I’ve tried audiobooks but my attention span won’t sit still long enough. I took one on a long plane ride, a book I love, and I found myself not listening, not paying attention. Not a medium that works for me.

    • Good to know that before you signed up for that year-long membership! I know some people who don’t read much at all, but listen to audio books all the time. It’s that different strokes thing.

  5. Allyson A. says:

    I’ve never tried an audiobook, but I’ve wondered about them. I know several people, who do listen to an autiobook while on a long commute. Back in the day, when I did commute, audiobooks were unheard of. Any length of travel now, I’m accompanying my husband on a business trip, and he likes to converse, to make the time pass. I do enjoy an actual print book over a ditigal one. One day, I might try an audiobook.