the Little Red Reviewer

Words on the page to Sounds in the air

Posted on: February 4, 2017

Remember when you were a kid, and someone read you a story? Didn’t matter if you liked the story or not, but I bet you enjoyed being read to.

If you’re a parent, I’m sure you read or have read to your kids.  Didn’t matter if you liked the story, but I bet you enjoy the experience of reading to someone.

Ever notice how the feel of the story changes when you read it out loud? When you’re reading out loud, you can control the pace of the words, where the pauses between phrases are,  you can use inflection how and when you want. The words on the page take on entirely new dimensions when they become sounds in the air, and if you are one doing the reading, you can connect with those words in an entirely new way.

I picked up an anthology the other day, and flipped right to a story by one of my favorite authors. One of the many reasons I love her work is because much of it is a combination of organic and cyber, and metaphors that shouldn’t make sense but work perfectly. This is a lady who speaks my language through her words.   This particular story was especially gorgeous, with the words practically making music on the page.  While chatting with my husband that evening, I wouldn’t shut up about how much I loved this story, and that this story was such a perfect example of why I love this author’s work.

I told him This is why I love her work, and I read out loud to him the first few sentences.

That’s really good writing, he said.

So I read a few more sentences.

he said he liked it.

And the entire story is more of that, I told him.

As beautiful as this story is to read to myself, I do wonder how much prettier it would get if I read the entire thing out loud. Would I find a metered pattern in the metaphors? Would a rhythm rise from the words and the pacing of the action?  Would my pace of speaking speed up right at the end, or slow down? During the dialog, would I pause a long time between the lines, as if the characters were thinking about what they wanted to say next? Would I play certain lines for laughs, for sarcasm, or seriously?  So many different ways to experience this (and any) story!

I’m sure plenty of you are thinking “duh, I listen to audiobooks! it’s the same thing that Andrea is talking about!”. That’s *nearly* the same thing, but not quite.  When you listen to an audiobook you are on the listener side of the equation.  What’s I’m getting at is being on the speaker side of the equation.  I do listen to the occassional audiobook, but I often get so distracted by the narrator’s voice that I tend to lose track of what they are saying (yes, i’m weird, but you guys knew that already!)

 

By the way, the story is Synecdoche Oracles by Benjanun Sriduangkaew, out of Upgraded, edited by Neil Clarke.

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12 Responses to "Words on the page to Sounds in the air"

My mom read to me, but only until I started reading on my own. Then I didn’t want her to.
The only books I would consider reading out loud would be Shakespeare’s plays, as that whole rhythm and meter you mention comes out there.

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I do love reading metered literature outloud, it feels like reading song lyrics that have been specifically written to be said in a pattern.

there’s a section in Patrick Rothfuss’s The Wise Man’s Fear that is written and presented as conversational prose, but if you read it outloud, you find that it’s iambic pentameter! Tim Powers does stuff like that sometimes too.

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I liked being read to when a child, but once I could read fairly well, that stopped, or maybe it stopped when I got to Kindergarten though I wasn’t reading quite then. Anyway, I wanted to read my choices. No more being read to.

Me doing the reading? I had a girlfriend who thought it would be cool to read favorite books to each other. Fine idea, and she was a good out-loud reader. Turns out (and I should have known from mandatory speech class and presentation classes in high school) I was not.

So, no. No out loud reading happens here, unless I quietly read a poem aloud to myself.

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I always liked being read to, didn’t matter how old I was. I react very strongly to sound, so I think it was more the sound of my Mom or Dad’s voice combined with the verbal patterns of telling a story that I enjoy so much.

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I’ve always assumed that audiobook readers had first (silently) read the book, because I can’t imagine how they’d get things like pacing and voice inflections right unless they already knew what was about to happen.

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I don’t remember who it was (Kate Baker, maybe?) who says she rarely reads the story before she records the narration, because she wants her reactions to what happens to be completely authentic.

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I am so glad to have found your post. It seems there are many ways to enjoy the oral tradition. I too am very picky about who reads to me. At the same time, I also relish interpreting the written word to the spoken word myself. And for all the reasons you cite in your post. I too find it difficult to finish audiobooks no matter how renowned the narrator. That may seem odd coming from an audiobook producer and narrator, which I am.

I’ve only been at it for a little over two years and I’m in pre-production for my eighth project. To your point, it wasn’t listening to audiobooks that drew me to the form, it was the love of telling the story out loud as opposed to reading it silently. At this point, I think I’m finally feeling okay about not being interested in replicating any of the audiobook conventions of genre or delivery and instead just telling the story the way it fits me to tell it. I’m learning that the more intimately I’ve grown with the story, the more satisfying my telling is — to me. Duh. And, oddly enough, the story with which I was most intimate ended up winning an Earphones Award from AudioFile Magazine. I spent a great deal of time with it and loved it. So, that’s how I’ve decided to approach this next book too. I’ve been getting intimate and falling in love with the story I’m about to tell. When I’m finished, if I feel good about what I’ve done like I did with the award winner, I think I may have found my path. Guess we’ll see.

Anyway, thank you for your post. It was a breath of fresh air and encouraging for my work.

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Hi Curt,
welcome to my blog, I’m happy you found me! 🙂
Makes me feel normal that I’m not the only one who has trouble finishing audiobooks. there is one audiobook that I love, and an audio short story I’ve listened to maybe 15 times, and it’s completely in the pitch and texture of the narrator’s voice.

” just telling the story the way it fits me to tell it. I’m learning that the more intimately I’ve grown with the story, the more satisfying my telling is — to me.”

that’s it, exactly. we all respond to stories differently, so being able to speak in a way that fits your reaction to it is another way of intimately connecting with the story, on your own terms.

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Exactly. And if someone else enjoys it, that’s great. But nothing happens until you satisfy your own expressive urge. Just curious, what is the audiobook you love?

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it’s The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White. Doesn’t hurt that I love the novel to pieces. The narrators of the book are Mary Robinette Kowal and Ray Porter, and there’s something about Ray Porter’s voice, it’s just incredible for me.

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Thanks. I’ll check it out.

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Reblogged this on Curt Simmons Narrates and commented:
Such a strong testimonial for the oral tradition. It’s not lost. Humans still have the urge to tell the story. But silent reading is okay too.

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